Temporal variations of monsoon systems

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Vieira Agudelo, Sara C.
Webster, Peter J.
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It has been proposed that the Asian-Australasian monsoon system is influenced by large-scale sea-surface temperature (SST) variability in the three tropical oceans although how this influence is manifested has remained a largely open question. Closure of this issue is important because it is needed to explain trends in monsoon precipitation and circulation that have occurred in the last 30 years. Using an atmospheric general circulation model, we run a series of experiments with different configurations of global SST relating to various epochs occurring during the last century to evaluate their influence on the monsoon. Comparisons of circulation fields show that a colder SST configuration generates a weaker large-scale monsoonal circulation. On the other hand, warmer SST states generate stronger large scale circulations with more vigorous centers of divergence and convergence. Warmer SST configurations are associated with positive anomalies of precipitation in the eastern Bay of Bengal, Eastern Indian Ocean and South East Asia. Cooler SST configurations are associated with negative anomalies of precipitation in the Arabian Sea and Indian peninsula, especially at the beginning of the summer. Since SST gradients determine, to a large degree, the low level flow, they are also going to influence the transport of atmospheric moisture. Comparison of vertically integrated moisture transport fields between the different experiments show that cold SST configuration favors an increased inter-hemispheric flow of moisture but decreases in the westerly moisture flow in to the Bay of Bengal and India. Warm SST configurations, on the other hand, strengthens westerly flow into the eastern Indian Ocean. An increasing availability of moisture in a region of stronger convergence constitutes a favorable environment for the production of monsoonal precipitation. African easterly waves (AEW) constitute an important component of the African and tropical Atlantic Ocean climate during the boreal summer. An understanding of this component is essential since AEW are closely related with tropical Atlantic storm activity. We adopt an idealized modeling approach using the WRF model initialized with ERA-40 reanalysis data to study the mechanisms that trigger the formation and maintenance of AEW. The model domain includes the African continent, central and eastern Atlantic Ocean and the western Indian Ocean. Experiments are designed to test the relative importance of the thermal effect of the eastern African topography and the influence of the cross-equatorial pressure gradient, induced by the sea surface temperature (SST) on the origins and maintenance of AEW. Topography and SST variation are selectively added and removed. The control experiment shows that the model reproduces many of the mean features observed during the boreal summer. Westward propagating disturbances of 3-8 day period that originate between 30 and 40E at the surface levels and in the mid troposphere are well depicted. In addition, the model provides a reasonable representation of the AEJ. When all topographic features are removed, there is a weakening of the AEJ over land and ocean, however, longitude-time sections of meridional velocity still exhibit westward propagating disturbances that reach the western African coast at the surface and at the jet level with the same 3-8 day period. Spectral analysis of meridional velocity show that the variability associated with AEWs is reduced over East Africa and West Africa at 850-hPa and is reduced west of 20E along the southern flank of the jet and over northern Africa at the jet level. Maximum amplitude of the disturbances occurs right at the coast. The spatial distribution of barotropic and baroclinic energy conversions explains the reduction in AEWs over land and the intensification of these features at the coast. When the zonal SST gradient is removed, a weaker AEJ displaces southward and a weaker monsoon flow ensues. Spectral analysis of meridional velocity displays a variance reduction in the 3-8 day band at the 850-hP a level in western and eastern Africa and at the coast. At the 650-hPa level significant changes are not observed at the latitude of the AEJ (15N), however, a decrease in the variance associated with AEW occurs at the southern flank of the jet. A southward displacement of the jet favors a weakening of the baroclinic energy conversions. Barotropic conversions also appear to be weaker when the SST gradient is removed. The present study suggests that orography plays an important role in determining the variability of meridional wind associated with AEW over Eastern Africa at the lower levels. Further, zonal SST gradients over the Atlantic favor intensification of waves when they reach the coast and the maintenance of disturbances across the Ocean. Also, results could suggest that SST gradients support genesis of AEW just off the coast of Africa.
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