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T. D. Ringler and K. H. Cook

Abstract

A general circulation model (GCM) with idealized boundary conditions is used to study the effects of a mountain's latitudinal position on the stationary wave response. In each of a series of experiments the only asymmetry in the boundary conditions is a Gaussian-shaped mountain with an e-folding width of 15° latitude placed at 0°, 15°, 30°, 45°, and 60° latitude in separate integrations. The stationary wave response in the GCM is analyzed using a linearized primitive equation model, a 3D wave-flux vector, and a barotropic ray-tracing technique.

Stationary waves in the GCM are generated by modifications to the diabatic heating field, termed thermal forcing, and by obstructing the surface winds, termed mechanical forcing. With a mountain at 0° latitude, latent heating anomalies provide the forcing mechanism. In the 15° mountain experiment, forcing by anomalous latent heating is also found, but mechanical forcing (which occurs within the easterlies) seems to dominate. In the 30°, 45°, and 60° mountain experiment, the stationary wave response results from mechanical forcing in westerly flow. As the mountain's latitudinal position is moved poleward, two distinct regions of stationary wave forcing appear, as indicated by a 3D wave-flux vector. This results in two wave trains emanating from the mountain placed at 60° latitude. One region of forcing occurs in the region where the westerlies are perturbed, while the other region occurs on the east and poleward flank of the mountain. In this idealized setting, the propagation patterns of the stationary waves can, for the most part, be understood through quasigeostrophic theory. The dispersion of stationary wave energy throughout the atmosphere is largely dependent upon the upper-level flow.

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Kerry H. Cook and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

The easterly Caribbean low-level jet (CLLJ) is a prominent climate feature over the Intra-America Seas, and it is associated with much of the water vapor transport from the tropical Atlantic into the Caribbean Basin. In this study, the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) is analyzed to improve the understanding of the dynamics of the CLLJ and its relationship to regional rainfall variations.

Horizontal momentum balances are examined to understand how jet variations on both diurnal and seasonal time scales are controlled. The jet is geostrophic to the first order. Its previously documented semidiurnal cycle (with minima at about 0400 and 1600 LT) is caused by semidiurnal cycling of the meridional geopotential height gradient in association with changes in the westward extension of the North Atlantic subtropical high (NASH). A diurnal cycle is superimposed, associated with a meridional land–sea breeze (solenoidal circulation) onto the north coast of South America, so that the weakest jet velocities occur at 1600 LT. The CLLJ is present throughout the year, and it is known to vary in strength semiannually. Peak magnitudes in July are related to the seasonal cycle of the NASH, and a second maximum in February is caused by heating over northern South America. From May through September, zonal geopotential gradients associated with summer heating over Central America and Mexico induce meridional flow. The CLLJ splits into two branches, including a southerly branch that connects with the Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ) bringing moisture into the central United States. During the rest of the year, the flow remains essentially zonal across the Caribbean Basin and into the Pacific.

A strong (weak) CLLJ is associated with reduced (enhanced) rainfall over the Caribbean Sea throughout the year in the NARR. The relationship with precipitation over land depends on the season. Despite the fact that the southerly branch of the CLLJ feeds into the meridional GPLLJ in May through September, variations in the CLLJ strength during these months do not impact U.S. precipitation, because the CLLJ strength is varying in response to regional-scale forcing and not to changes in the large-scale circulation. During the cool season, there are statistically significant correlations between the CLLJ index and rainfall over the United States. When the CLLJ is strong, there is anomalous northward moisture transport across the Gulf of Mexico into the central United States and pronounced rainfall increases over Louisiana and Texas. A weak jet is associated with anomalous westerly flow across the southern Caribbean region and significantly reduced rainfall over the south-central United States.

No connection between the intensity of the CLLJ and drought over the central United States is found. There are only three drought summers in the NARR period (1980, 1988, and 2006), and the CLLJ was extremely weak in 1988 but not in 1980 or 2006.

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C. M. Patricola and K. H. Cook

Abstract

The African Humid Period (AHP), about 14 800 yr ago [14.8–5.5 ka (ka ≡ 1000 yr ago)], was a time of increased humidity over Africa. Paleoclimate evidence suggests that the West African summer monsoon was stronger and more extensive 6 ka than today, and that the Saharan Desert was green. Here, a regional climate model that produces an excellent simulation of today’s climate over northern Africa is used to study the dynamics of the monsoon 6 ka. Changes in insolation, atmospheric CO2, and vegetation are used to impose 6-ka conditions, and the role of each forcing is isolated. Vegetation is not interactive, and the large-scale circulation and SSTs are fixed at present-day values for the 6-ka simulations.

The regional model produces precipitation increases across the Sahel and Sahara that are in good agreement with the paleodata. However, unobserved drying is simulated over the Guinean coast region where paleodata are sparse. Precipitation increases in the Sahel are related to a northward shift of the monsoon, the elimination of the African easterly jet, and an intensification and deepening of the low-level westerly jet on the west coast. The thermal low–Saharan high system of the present-day climate is replaced by a deep thermal low. When this system becomes fully developed in midsummer, cyclonic circulations transport moisture north into the Sahara, and rainfall increases there. Surface temperatures decrease despite the increased solar forcing 6 ka because of an increase in cloudiness. A moist static energy budget analysis shows that increased low-level moisture dominates the cooling to destabilize the vertical column and enhance convection. Even though solar forcing is the ultimate cause of the AHP, the model responds more strongly to the vegetation forcing, especially early in the summer season, emphasizing the importance of vegetation in maintaining the intensified monsoon system.

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Kerry H. Cook and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

A regional climate model with 90-km horizontal resolution on a large domain is used to predict and analyze precipitation changes over East Africa caused by greenhouse gas increases. A pair of six-member ensembles is used: one representing the late twentieth century and another the mid-twenty-first century under a midline emissions scenario. The twentieth-century simulation uses boundary conditions from reanalysis climatology, and these are modified for the mid-twenty-first-century simulation using output from coupled GCMs. The twentieth-century simulation reproduces the observed climate well. In eastern Ethiopia and Somalia, the boreal spring rains that begin in May are cut short in the mid-twenty-first-century simulation. The cause is an anomalous dry, anticyclonic flow that develops over the Arabian Peninsula and the northern Arabian Sea as mass shifts eastward near 20°N in response to strong warming over the Sahara. In Tanzania and southern Kenya, the boreal spring's long rains are reduced throughout the season in the future simulation. This is a secondary response to precipitation enhancement in the Congo basin. The boreal fall “short rains” season is lengthened in the twenty-first-century simulation in the southern Kenya and Tanzania region in association with a northeastward shift of the South Indian convergence zone.

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Edward K. Vizy and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

The sensitivity of precipitation over West Africa to sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) in the Gulf of Guinea and the eastern North Atlantic is studied using a GCM. Results from nine perpetual July simulations with various imposed SSTAs are presented and analyzed to reveal associations between the precipitation and SST fields via large-scale circulation and atmospheric moisture anomalies.

Rainfall increases over the Guinean Coast and decreases over the Congo basin when warm SSTAs are present in the Gulf of Guinea. These precipitation perturbations are related to the forcing of a Kelvin and a Rossby wave. The former is associated with a weakening of the Walker circulation, while the latter strengthens the West African monsoon. Rainfall over West Africa is less sensitive to cold SSTAs than to warm anomalies. Three contributing factors are identified as follows: 1) latitude of the SST forcing, 2) background flow, and 3) nonlinearity of the Clausius–Clapeyron equation (no more than a 20% effect). Despite the relative insensitivity to eastern North Atlantic SSTAs alone, a superposition of the individual responses to SSTAs is shown to be a poor predictor of the response to combined SSTAs, especially over central northern Africa.

A comparison of the modeled moisture budget anomalies to the difference between the summer seasons of 1988 and 1994 from the satellite observations and the NCEP reanalysis is conducted. While there may be many causes of precipitation differences between two particular years, the moisture budget anomalies are similar in that enhanced precipitation along the Guinean coast is supported mainly by low-level wind convergence from the south. The role of advection is also similar in the model and the reanalysis. However, the precipitation decrease over the Congo Basin that is associated with the Kelvin wave response to Gulf of Guinea SSTs in the model is not evident in the observations for these 2 yr.

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Kerry H. Cook and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

Evaluation of three reanalyses (ERA-Interim, NCEP-2, and MERRA) and two observational datasets [CRU and Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN)] for 1979–2012 demonstrates that the surface temperature of the Sahara Desert has increased at a rate that is 2–4 times greater than that of the tropical-mean temperature over the 34-yr time period. While the response to enhanced greenhouse gas forcing over most of the globe involves the full depth of the atmosphere, with increases in longwave back radiation increasing latent heat fluxes, the dryness of the Sahara surface precludes this response. Changes in the surface heat balance over the Sahara during the analysis period are primarily in the upward and downward longwave fluxes. As a result, the warming is concentrated near the surface, and a desert amplification of the warming occurs. The desert amplification is analogous to the polar amplification of the global warming signal, which is concentrated at the surface, in part, because of the vertical stability of the Arctic atmosphere. Accompanying the amplified surface warming of the Sahara is a strengthening of both the summertime heat low and the African easterly jet and a weakening of the wintertime anticyclone and the low-level Harmattan winds. Potential implications of the desert amplification include decreases in mineral dust aerosols globally, decreases in wintertime cold air surge activity, and increases in Sahel rainfall.

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J. D. Lenters and K. H. Cook

Abstract

The climatological structure in the upper-tropospheric summertime circulation over South America is diagnosed using a GCM (with and without South American topography), a linear model, and observational data. Emphasis is placed on understanding the origin of observed features such as the Bolivian high and the accompanying “Nordeste low” to the east. Results from the linear model indicate that these two features are generated in response to precipitation over the Amazon basin, central Andes, and South Atlantic convergence zone, with African precipitation also playing a crucial role in the formation of the Nordeste low. The direct mechanical and sensible heating effects of the Andes are minimal, acting only to induce a weak lee trough in midlatitudes and a shallow monsoonal circulation over the central Andes. In the GCM, the effects of the Andes include a strengthening of the Bolivian high and northward shift of the Nordeste low, primarily through changes in the precipitation field. The position of the Bolivian high is primarily determined by Amazonian precipitation and is little affected by the removal of the Andes. Strong subsidence to the west of the high is found to be important for the maintenance of the high’s warm core, while large-scale convective overshooting to the east is responsible for a layer of cold air above the high.

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Kerry H. Cook and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

The ability of coupled GCMs to correctly simulate the climatology and a prominent mode of variability of the West African monsoon is evaluated, and the results are used to make informed decisions about which models may be producing more reliable projections of future climate in this region. The integrations were made available by the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison for the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The evaluation emphasizes the circulation characteristics that support the precipitation climatology, and the physical processes of a “rainfall dipole” variability mode that is often associated with dry conditions in the Sahel when SSTs in the Gulf of Guinea are anomalously warm.

Based on the quality of their twentieth-century simulations over West Africa in summer, three GCMs are chosen for analysis of the twenty-first century integrations under various assumptions about future greenhouse gas increases. Each of these models behaves differently in the twenty-first-century simulations. One model simulates severe drying across the Sahel in the later part of the twenty-first century, while another projects quite wet conditions throughout the twenty-first century. In the third model, warming in the Gulf of Guinea leads to more modest drying in the Sahel due to a doubling of the number of anomalously dry years by the end of the century. An evaluation of the physical processes that cause these climate changes, in the context of the understanding about how the system works in the twentieth century, suggests that the third model provides the most reasonable projection of the twenty-first-century climate.

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Edward K. Vizy and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

Two successive African easterly waves (AEWs) from August 2006 are analyzed utilizing observational data, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalysis, and output from the National Center for Atmospheric Research–National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) to understand why the first wave does not develop over the eastern Atlantic while the second wave does. The first AEW eventually forms Hurricane Ernesto over the Caribbean Sea, but genesis does not occur over the eastern Atlantic. The second wave, although weaker than the first over land, leaves the West African coast and quickly intensifies into Tropical Storm Debby west of the Cape Verde islands. This study shows that the environmental conditions associated with the first AEW’s passage inhibited development. These conditions include strong low- and midtropospheric vertical wind shear owing to a stronger than normal African easterly jet, lower than normal relative humidity, and increased atmospheric stability. All of these are characteristics of an intensification of the Saharan air layer (SAL), or SAL outbreak, over the eastern Atlantic. The environmental conditions were more favorable for genesis 2½ days later when the second wave left the African coast. Additionally, a strong low-level southwesterly surge develops over the eastern North Atlantic in the wake of the passage of the first wave. This westerly surge is associated with an enhancement of the low-level westerly flow, low-level cyclonic vorticity, large-scale low-level wind convergence, and vertical motion conducive for development over the region. While the initial westerly surge is likely associated with the passage of the first wave, over time (i.e., by 1600 UTC 20 August 2006) the development of the second wave becomes influential in maintaining the low-level westerly surge. Although SAL outbreaks are also associated with the addition of dust, the different cyclogenesis histories of the two systems are simulated without including dust in the regional model.

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Edward K. Vizy and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

Changes in rainfall and temperature extremes are predicted by many global climate models as a response to greenhouse gas increases, and such changes will have significant environmental and social impacts. A regional climate model is used to predict changes in extremes across tropical and northern Africa for 2041–60 under a midline emissions forcing scenario. Six indicators are examined, including annual extreme and daily diurnal temperature ranges, heat wave days, number of dry days, number of extreme wet days, and extreme wet day rainfall intensity. Confidence in the projections is evaluated by examining the ensemble spread and the validation of extreme events in the twentieth-century simulation.

Despite an increase in both daily minimum and maximum temperatures, diurnal temperature ranges decrease from West Africa to Ethiopia during spring and fall, over the Sahel during summer, and over the Congo basin during winter and spring. Diurnal temperature ranges increase over the Horn of Africa during boreal winter and over Kenya and Tanzania during boreal summer. The number of heat wave days increases north of 8°N with the largest increase (60–120 days) over the western Sahel. The number of dry days decreases over the Congo and the central Sahel but increases over East Africa, the latter associated with a reduction in the springtime long rains. The number of extreme wet rainfall days is projected to increase over West Africa, the Sahel, and the Ethiopian Highlands but decrease over the Congo. The predicted changes in extreme wet rainfall intensity are highly regional.

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