On Meridional Structure and Dynamics of the Intertropical Convergence Zone

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Toma, Violeta E.
Webster, Peter J.
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The location of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone plays an important role in the climatology of tropical regions. Yet, despite its importance, the basic physics that determine the location of the ITCZ are not fully understood. Observational analyses show that, where the cross-equatorial pressure gradient is strong, the maximum convection is not necessarily associated with the highest sea surface temperature,or correspondingly, the lowest sea level pressure. Tomas and Webster (1997) argue that if a strong enough cross-equatorial pressure gradient exists and the system is inertialy unstable, secondary ameliorating circulations will drive strong off-equatorial convection in regions where ITCZ location is determined by low tropospheric dynamics. The observational record is re-examined to test the inertial instability hypothesis using the new ECMWF reanalysis data set. Composite analyses are performed to study the structure of the summer meridional circulation for the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. In agreement with Tomas and Webster theory, we find that the magnitude of the cross-equatorial pressure difference appears to determine the intensity of convection with low values of outgoing longwave radiation always to the north of the zero absolute vorticity line, and the absolute vorticity advection equatorward of the this line. Also the observed oscillation period of the disturbance for the studied regions coincides with theoretical oscillation period of the inertial flow.
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