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Chidong Zhang and Samson M. Hagos

Abstract

Tropical diabatic heating profiles estimated using sounding data from eight field campaigns were diagnosed to document their common and prevailing structure and variability that are relevant to the large-scale circulation. The first two modes of a rotated empirical orthogonal function analysis—one deep, one shallow—explain 85% of the total variance of all data combined. These two modes were used to describe the heating evolution, which led to three composited heating profiles that are considered as prevailing large-scale heating structures. They are, respectively, shallow, bottom heavy (peak near 700 hPa); deep, middle heavy (peak near 400 hPa); and stratiform-like, top heavy (heating peak near 400 hPa and cooling peak near 700 hPa). The amplitudes and occurrence frequencies of the shallow, bottom-heavy heating profiles are comparable to those of the stratiform-like, top-heavy ones. The sequence of the most probable heating evolution is deep tropospheric cooling to bottom-heavy heating, to middle heavy heating, to stratiform-like heating, then back to deep tropospheric cooling. This heating transition appears to occur on different time scales. Each of the prevailing heating structures is interpreted as being composed of particular fractional populations of various types of precipitating cloud systems, which are viewed as the building blocks for the mean. A linear balanced model forced by the three prevailing heating profiles produces rich vertical structures in the circulation with multiple overturning cells, whose corresponding moisture convergence and surface wind fields are very sensitive to the heating structures.

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Samson M. Hagos and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

Previous studies show that the climatological precipitation over South America, particularly the Nordeste region, is influenced by the presence of the African continent. Here the influence of African topography and surface wetness on the Atlantic marine ITCZ (AMI) and South American precipitation are investigated.

Cross-equatorial flow over the Atlantic Ocean introduced by north–south asymmetry in surface conditions over Africa shifts the AMI in the direction of the flow. African topography, for example, introduces an anomalous high over the southern Atlantic Ocean and a low to the north. This results in a northward migration of the AMI and dry conditions over the Nordeste region.

The implications of this process on variability are then studied by analyzing the response of the AMI to soil moisture anomalies over tropical Africa. Northerly flow induced by equatorially asymmetric perturbations in soil moisture over northern tropical Africa shifts the AMI southward, increasing the climatological precipitation over northeastern South America. Flow associated with an equatorially symmetric perturbation in soil moisture, however, has a very weak cross-equatorial component and very weak influence on the AMI and South American precipitation. The sensitivity of the AMI to soil moisture perturbations over certain regions of Africa can possibly improve the skill of prediction.

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Samson M. Hagos and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

A regional ocean–atmosphere coupled model is developed for climate variability and change studies. The model allows dynamic and thermodynamic interactions between the atmospheric boundary layer and an ocean mixed layer with spatially and seasonally varying depth prescribed from observations. The model reproduces the West African monsoon circulation as well as aspects of observed seasonal SST variations in the tropical Atlantic. The model is used to identify various mechanisms that couple the West African monsoon circulation with eastern Atlantic SSTs. By reducing wind speeds and suppressing evaporation, the northward migration of the ITCZ off the west coast of Africa contributes to the modeled spring SST increases. During this period, the westerly monsoon flow is expanded farther westward and moisture transport on to the continent is enhanced. Near the end of the summer, upwelling associated with this enhanced westerly flow as well as the solar cycle lead to the seasonal cooling of the SSTs. Over the Gulf of Guinea, the acceleration of the southerly West African monsoon surface winds contributes to cooling of the Gulf of Guinea between April and July by increasing the entrainment of cool underlying water and enhancing evaporation.

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Samson M. Hagos and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

The influences of decadal Indian and Atlantic Ocean SST anomalies on late-twentieth-century Sahel precipitation variability are investigated. The results of this regional modeling study show that the primary causes of the 1980s Sahel drought are divergence and anomalous anticyclonic circulation, which are associated with Indian Ocean warming. The easterly branch of this circulation drives moisture away from the Sahel. By competing for the available moisture, concurrent tropical Atlantic Ocean warming enhanced the areal coverage of the drought. The modeled partial recovery of the precipitation in the 1990s simulations is mainly related to the warming of the northern tropical Atlantic Ocean and an associated cyclonic circulation that supplies the Sahel with moisture. Because of the changes in the scale and distribution of the forcing, the divergence associated with the continued Indian Ocean warming during the 1990s was located over the tropical Atlantic, contributing to the recovery over the Sahel. In general, the influence of SSTs on Sahel precipitation is related to their modulation of the easterly flow and the associated moisture transport. Precipitation anomalies are further enhanced by the circulation patterns associated with local convergence anomalies. These convergence anomalies and circulation patterns are sensitive to the scale and distribution of the SST anomalies and the moisture.

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Samson M. Hagos and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

The observed abrupt latitudinal shift of maximum precipitation from the Guinean coast into the Sahel region in June, known as the West African monsoon jump, is studied using a regional climate model. Moisture, momentum, and energy budget analyses are used to better understand the physical processes that lead to the jump. Because of the distribution of albedo and surface moisture, a sensible heating maximum is in place over the Sahel region throughout the spring. In early May, this sensible heating drives a shallow meridional circulation and moisture convergence at the latitude of the sensible heating maximum, and this moisture is transported upward into the lower free troposphere where it diverges. During the second half of May, the supply of moisture from the boundary layer exceeds the divergence, resulting in a net supply of moisture and condensational heating into the lower troposphere. The resulting pressure gradient introduces an inertial instability, which abruptly shifts the midtropospheric meridional wind convergence maximum from the coast into the continental interior at the end of May. This in turn introduces a net total moisture convergence, net upward moisture flux and condensation in the upper troposphere, and an enhancement of precipitation in the continental interior through June. Because of the shift of the meridional convergence into the continent, condensation and precipitation along the coast gradually decline. The West African monsoon jump is an example of multiscale interaction in the climate system, in which an intraseasonal-scale event is triggered by the smooth seasonal evolution of SSTs and the solar forcing in the presence of land–sea contrast.

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Karthik Balaguru, Gregory R. Foltz, L. Ruby Leung, Samson M. Hagos, and David R. Judi

Abstract

Sea surface temperature (SST) and tropical cyclone heat potential (TCHP) are metrics used to incorporate the ocean’s influence on hurricane intensification into the National Hurricane Center’s Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS). While both SST and TCHP serve as useful measures of the upper-ocean heat content, they do not accurately represent ocean stratification effects. Here, it is shown that replacing SST within the SHIPS framework with a dynamic temperature T dy, which accounts for the oceanic negative feedback to the hurricane’s intensity arising from storm-induced vertical mixing and sea surface cooling, improves the model performance. While the model with SST and TCHP explains about 41% of the variance in 36-h intensity changes, replacing SST with T dy increases the variance explained to nearly 44%. These results suggest that representation of the oceanic feedback, even through relatively simple formulations such as T dy, may improve the performance of statistical hurricane intensity prediction models such as SHIPS.

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Samson M. Hagos, Zhe Feng, Casey D. Burleyson, Chun Zhao, Matus N. Martini, and Larry K. Berg

Abstract

Two Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) episodes observed during the 2011 Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program MJO Investigation Experiment (AMIE)/DYNAMO field campaign are simulated using a regional model with various cumulus parameterizations, a regional cloud-permitting model, and a global variable-resolution model with a high-resolution region centered over the tropical Indian Ocean. Model biases in relationships relevant to existing instability theories of MJO are examined and their relative contributions to the overall model errors are quantified using a linear statistical model. The model simulations capture the observed approximately log-linear relationship between moisture saturation fraction and precipitation, but precipitation associated with the given saturation fraction is overestimated especially at low saturation fraction values. This bias is a major contributor to the excessive precipitation during the suppressed phase of MJO. After accounting for this bias using a linear statistical model, the spatial and temporal structures of the model-simulated MJO episodes are much improved, and what remains of the biases is strongly correlated with biases in saturation fraction. The excess precipitation bias during the suppressed phase of the MJO episodes is accompanied by excessive column-integrated radiative forcing and surface evaporation. A large portion of the bias in evaporation is related to biases in wind speed, which are correlated with those of precipitation. These findings suggest that the precipitation bias sustains itself at least partly by cloud radiative feedbacks and convection–surface wind interactions.

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Casey D. Burleyson, Samson M. Hagos, Zhe Feng, Brandon W. J. Kerns, and Daehyun Kim

Abstract

The characteristics of Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) events that strengthen and weaken over the Maritime Continent (MC) are examined. The real-time multivariate MJO (RMM) index is used to assess changes in global MJO amplitude over the MC. The MJO weakens at least twice as often as it strengthens over the MC, with weakening MJOs being twice as likely during El Niño compared to La Niña years and the reverse for strengthening events. MJO weakening shows a pronounced seasonal cycle that has not been previously documented. During the Northern Hemisphere (NH) summer and fall the RMM index can strengthen over the MC. MJOs that approach the MC during the NH winter typically weaken according to the RMM index. This seasonal cycle corresponds to whether the MJO crosses the MC primarily north or south of the equator. Because of the seasonal cycle, weakening MJOs are characterized by positive sea surface temperature and moist-static energy anomalies in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) of the MC compared to strengthening events. Analysis of the outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) MJO index (OMI) shows that MJO precipitation weakens when it crosses the MC along the equator. A possible explanation of this based on previous results is that the MJO encounters more landmasses and taller mountains when crossing along the equator or in the SH. The new finding of a seasonal cycle in MJO weakening over the MC highlights the importance of sampling MJOs throughout the year in future field campaigns designed to study MJO–MC interactions.

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Casey D. Burleyson, Zhe Feng, Samson M. Hagos, Jerome Fast, Luiz A. T. Machado, and Scot T. Martin

Abstract

The isolation of the Amazon rain forest makes it challenging to observe precipitation forming there, but it also creates a natural laboratory to study anthropogenic impacts on clouds and precipitation in an otherwise pristine environment. Observations were collected upwind and downwind of Manaus, Brazil, during the “Observations and Modeling of the Green Ocean Amazon 2014–2015” experiment (GoAmazon2014/5). Besides aircraft, most of the observations were point measurements made in a spatially heterogeneous environment, making it hard to distinguish anthropogenic signals from naturally occurring spatial variability. In this study, 15 years of satellite data are used to examine the spatial and temporal variability of deep convection around the GoAmazon2014/5 sites using cold cloud tops (infrared brightness temperatures colder than 240 K) as a proxy for deep convection. During the rainy season, convection associated with the inland propagation of the previous day’s sea-breeze front is in phase with the diurnal cycle of deep convection near Manaus but is out of phase a few hundred kilometers to the east and west. Convergence between the river breezes and the easterly trade winds generates afternoon convection up to 10% more frequently (on average ~4 mm day−1 more intense rainfall) at the GoAmazon2014/5 sites east of the Negro River (T0e, T0t/k, and T1) relative to the T3 site, which was located west of the river. In general, the annual and diurnal cycles of precipitation during 2014 were similar to climatological values that are based on satellite data from 2000 to 2013.

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Samson M. Hagos, L. Ruby Leung, Oluwayemi A. Garuba, Charlotte Demott, Bryce Harrop, Jian Lu, and Min-Seop Ahn

Abstract

It is well documented that over the tropical oceans, column-integrated precipitable water (pw) and precipitation (P) have a nonlinear relationship. In this study moisture budget analysis is used to examine this P–pw relationship in a normalized precipitable water framework. It is shown that the parameters of the nonlinear relationship depend on the vertical structure of moisture convergence. Specifically, the precipitable water values at which precipitation is balanced independently by evaporation versus by moisture convergence define a critical normalized precipitable water, pwnc. This is a measure of convective inhibition that separates tropical precipitation into two regimes: a local evaporation-controlled regime with widespread drizzle and a precipitable water–controlled regime. Most of the 17 CMIP6 historical simulations examined here have higher pwnc compared to ERA5, and more frequently they operate in the drizzle regime. When compared to observations, they overestimate precipitation over the high-evaporation oceanic regions off the equator, thereby producing a “double ITCZ” feature, while underestimating precipitation over the large tropical landmasses and over the climatologically moist oceanic regions near the equator. The responses to warming under the SSP585 scenario are also examined using the normalized precipitable water framework. It is shown that the critical normalized precipitable water value at which evaporation versus moisture convergence balance precipitation decreases as a result of the competing dynamic and thermodynamic responses to warming, resulting in an increase in drizzle and total precipitation. Statistically significant historical trends corresponding to the thermodynamic and dynamic changes are detected in ERA5 and in low-intensity drizzle precipitation in the PERSIANN precipitation dataset.

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