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Irene Polo, Belén Rodríguez-Fonseca, Teresa Losada, and Javier García-Serrano

Abstract

This work presents a description of the 1979–2002 tropical Atlantic (TA) SST variability modes coupled to the anomalous West African (WA) rainfall during the monsoon season. The time-evolving SST patterns, with an impact on WA rainfall variability, are analyzed using a new methodology based on maximum covariance analysis. The enhanced Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) dataset, which includes measures over the ocean, gives a complete picture of the interannual WA rainfall patterns for the Sahel dry period. The leading TA SST pattern, related to the Atlantic El Niño, is coupled to anomalous precipitation over the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, which corresponds to the second WA rainfall principal component. The thermodynamics and dynamics involved in the generation, development, and damping of this mode are studied and compared with previous works. The SST mode starts at the Angola/Benguela region and is caused by alongshore wind anomalies. It then propagates westward via Rossby waves and damps because of latent heat flux anomalies and Kelvin wave eastward propagation from an off-equatorial forcing. The second SST mode includes the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, showing how the Mediterranean SST anomalies are those that are directly associated with the Sahelian rainfall. The global signature of the TA SST patterns is analyzed, adding new insights about the Pacific–Atlantic link in relation to WA rainfall during this period. Also, this global picture suggests that the Mediterranean SST anomalies are a fingerprint of large-scale forcing.

This work updates the results given by other authors, whose studies are based on different datasets dating back to the 1950s, including both the wet and the dry Sahel periods.

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Javier García-Serrano, Teresa Losada, Belén Rodríguez-Fonseca, and Irene Polo

Abstract

The ways in which deep convection over the tropical Atlantic affects the midlatitude climate variability through meridional circulation, planetary wave teleconnection, and wave–mean flow interaction is examined for the 1979–2002 period, by following the North Atlantic anomalous rainfall evolution from summer to late winter. In this way, the first two covariability modes between anomalous summer tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) and anomalous summer–late-winter precipitation over the North Atlantic basin are analyzed using the same methodology of extended maximum covariance analysis developed for Part I. This work updates the results given by other authors, whose studies are based on different datasets dating back to the 1950s. To this end, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Merged Analysis of Precipitation (CMAP) dataset, which includes measures over the ocean, is used to give a complete picture of the interannual rainfall patterns for the last decades.

The first mode, which accounts for more than 40% of the squared covariance fraction (SCF), involves SST anomalies related to the equatorial mode or Atlantic Niño. Its atmospheric response shows variations of the Atlantic Hadley and Ferrel circulations, reinforcing the direct and indirect circulation cells, respectively, displacements of the Atlantic Walker circulation, and the excitation of Rossby waves, which are trapped in the North African–Asian jet. The second mode, which accounts for 15% of the SCF, is associated with the summer horseshoe and winter tripole SST patterns. The related atmospheric circulation anomalies include direct thermal forcing (altering the local Hadley cell), perturbations in the ITCZ, and wavelike responses from the Caribbean region.

The method used in this work highlights the seasonal dependence of the modes, in contrast to previous work that neglects to take into account the month-to-month evolution of these modes. The results add new and valuable information to the understanding of these modes from the important period back to the 1980s.

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Irene Polo, Albin Ullmann, Pascal Roucou, and Bernard Fontaine

Abstract

Weather regimes (WRs) have been defined over the Euro-Mediterranean region (15°–70°N, 60°W–60°E) from May to October using the daily sea level pressure, 700-hPa geopotential height, and specific humidity from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA)-Interim over the 1989–2008 period. Computations are based on a neural network classification technique referred to as self-organizing maps, and the WRs produced can be used by the scientific community for comparison with other periods, projection onto model outputs, seasonal prediction, or teleconnection studies. The article particularly examines the relationship between WRs and West Africa (WA) rainfall, and the study’s results suggest that changes in particular WR frequencies can account for a part of the WA’s interannual rainfall variability. Thus, during anomalous wet (dry) years in WA rainfall, both more occurrences of WRs related to the negative (positive) summer North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)–like pattern and fewer occurrences of WRs related to the positive (negative) summer NAO-like pattern are attested in July and August (SN− and SN+, respectively). This is associated with a zonal symmetric pattern, consistent along the midtroposphere—that is, a low pressure anomaly centered over 50°N, 20°W and Eurasia (Greenland) and a high pressure anomaly centered over Iceland (central Europe) for SN− (SN+). Another striking characteristic of SN− (SN+) are southeastward (southwestward) anomalous surface winds flowing from (to) the Atlantic Ocean at 20°N; therefore able to enhance (weaken) wet convection. That sea surface temperature associated with SN− shows a warming of the Mediterranean in July and the opposite with SN+ in August suggests that temperature anomalies could be a precursor in the change of frequency of SN− and SN+.

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Irene Polo, Jon Robson, Rowan Sutton, and Magdalena Alonso Balmaseda

Abstract

It is widely thought that changes in both the surface buoyancy fluxes and wind stress drive variability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), but that they drive variability on different time scales. For example, wind forcing dominates short-term variability through its effects on Ekman currents and coastal upwelling, whereas buoyancy forcing is important for longer time scales (multiannual and decadal). However, the role of the wind forcing on multiannual to decadal time scales is less clear. Here the authors present an analysis of simulations with the Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean (NEMO) ocean model with the aim of explaining the important drivers of the zonal density gradient at 26°N, which is directly related to the AMOC. In the experiments, only one of either the wind stress or the buoyancy forcing is allowed to vary in time, whereas the other remains at its seasonally varying climatology. On subannual time scales, variations in the density gradient, and in the AMOC minus Ekman, are driven largely by local wind-forced coastal upwelling at both the western and eastern boundaries. On decadal time scales, buoyancy forcing related to the North Atlantic Oscillation dominates variability in the AMOC. Interestingly, however, it is found that wind forcing also plays a role at longer time scales, primarily impacting the interannual variability through the excitation of Rossby waves in the central Atlantic, which propagate westward to interact with the western boundary, but also by modulating the decadal time-scale response to buoyancy forcing.

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Marta Martín-Rey, Irene Polo, Belén Rodríguez-Fonseca, Teresa Losada, and Alban Lazar

Abstract

The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is the leading mode of Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) variability at multidecadal time scales. Previous studies have shown that the AMO could modulate El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variance. However, the role played by the AMO in the tropical Atlantic variability (TAV) is still uncertain. Here, it is demonstrated that during negative AMO phases, associated with a shallower thermocline, the eastern equatorial Atlantic SST variability is enhanced by more than 150% in boreal summer. Consequently, the interannual TAV modes are modified. During negative AMO, the Atlantic Niño displays larger amplitude and a westward extension and it is preceded by a simultaneous weakening of both subtropical highs in winter and spring. In contrast, a meridional seesaw SLP pattern evolving into a zonal gradient leads the Atlantic Niño during positive AMO. The north tropical Atlantic (NTA) mode is related to a Scandinavian blocking pattern during winter and spring in negative AMO, while under positive AMO it is part of the SST tripole associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation. Interestingly, the emergence of an overlooked variability mode, here called the horseshoe (HS) pattern on account of its shape, is favored during negative AMO. This anomalous warm (cool) HS surrounding an eastern equatorial cooling (warming) is remotely forced by an ENSO phenomenon. During negative AMO, the tropical–extratropical teleconnections are enhanced and the Walker circulation is altered. This, together with the increased equatorial SST variability, could promote the ENSO impacts on TAV. The results herein give a step forward in the better understanding of TAV, which is essential to improving its modeling, impacts, and predictability.

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Elsa Mohino, Belén Rodríguez-Fonseca, C. Roberto Mechoso, Teresa Losada, and Irene Polo

Abstract

State-of-the-art general circulation models show important systematic errors in their simulation of sea surface temperatures (SST), especially in the tropical Atlantic. In this work the spread in the simulation of climatological SST in the tropical Atlantic by 24 CMIP5 models is examined, and its relationship with the mean systematic biases in the region is explored. The modes of intermodel variability are estimated by applying principal component (PC) analysis to the SSTs in the region 70°W–20°E, 20°S–20°N. The intermodel variability is approximately explained by the first three modes. The first mode is related to warmer SSTs in the basin, shows worldwide connections with same-signed loads over most of the tropics, and is connected with lower low cloud cover over the eastern parts of the subtropical oceans. The second mode is restricted to the Atlantic, where it shows negative and positive loads to the north and south of the equator, respectively, and is connected to a too weak Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The third mode is related to the double intertropical convergence zone bias in the Pacific and to an interhemispheric asymmetry in the net radiation at the top of the atmosphere. The structure of the second mode is closer to the mean bias than that of the others in the tropical Atlantic, suggesting that model difficulties with the AMOC contribute to the regional biases.

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Belen Rodríguez-Fonseca, Elsa Mohino, Carlos R. Mechoso, Cyril Caminade, Michela Biasutti, Marco Gaetani, J. Garcia-Serrano, Edward K. Vizy, Kerry Cook, Yongkang Xue, Irene Polo, Teresa Losada, Leonard Druyan, Bernard Fontaine, Juergen Bader, Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes, Lisa Goddard, Serge Janicot, Alberto Arribas, William Lau, Andrew Colman, M. Vellinga, David P. Rowell, Fred Kucharski, and Aurore Voldoire

Abstract

The Sahel experienced a severe drought during the 1970s and 1980s after wet periods in the 1950s and 1960s. Although rainfall partially recovered since the 1990s, the drought had devastating impacts on society. Most studies agree that this dry period resulted primarily from remote effects of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies amplified by local land surface–atmosphere interactions. This paper reviews advances made during the last decade to better understand the impact of global SST variability on West African rainfall at interannual to decadal time scales. At interannual time scales, a warming of the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific/Indian Oceans results in rainfall reduction over the Sahel, and positive SST anomalies over the Mediterranean Sea tend to be associated with increased rainfall. At decadal time scales, warming over the tropics leads to drought over the Sahel, whereas warming over the North Atlantic promotes increased rainfall. Prediction systems have evolved from seasonal to decadal forecasting. The agreement among future projections has improved from CMIP3 to CMIP5, with a general tendency for slightly wetter conditions over the central part of the Sahel, drier conditions over the western part, and a delay in the monsoon onset. The role of the Indian Ocean, the stationarity of teleconnections, the determination of the leader ocean basin in driving decadal variability, the anthropogenic role, the reduction of the model rainfall spread, and the improvement of some model components are among the most important remaining questions that continue to be the focus of current international projects.

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