Observed and SST-forced seasonal rainfall variability across tropical America

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International Journal of Climatology
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Three experiments starting from different initial conditions have been made with the ECHAM-4 atmospheric General Circulation Model (GCM) integrated at T30 resolution forced with the observed sea-surface temperature (SST) over the period 1960-1994. The tropical America modes of seasonal rainfall anomalies whose time variation is most accurately simulated by the GCM have been searched for using Singular Value Decomposition Analyses (SVDA) and Canonical Correlation Analysis (CCA) between observed and model fields. The leading modes revealed by SVDA and CCA are highly similar, even though the ordering of the modes showed some fluctuation. A first skilful rainfall anomaly mode has weights of the same sign almost everywhere in tropical America. except along the western coast and the sub-tropical margins. This mode appears in all of the four seasons assessed. A second major skilful mode is usually a bipolar north-south (N-S) rainfall anomaly pattern (clear in December-March, DJFM: March-May, MAM, and June-September. JJAS).A large portion of the skill of the first rainfall anomaly mode (same sign anomalies across tropical America except small patches along the western coast) is through variance that is in common with the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). In addition to forcing from the central/eastern tropical Pacific SST. there also appears a contribution from contrasting SST anomalies in the tropical Atlantic. This rainfall mode is usually a regional portion of a more large-scale mode encompassing at least the whole tropical zone (especially in DJFM, MAM and September-November. SON). Analysis of the relationship of this mode with GCM circulation features reveals that a rainfall deficit (respectively excedent) over the main rainbelt of the tropical America region is associated with strengthening (respectively weakening) of the sub-tropical westerly jet streams, a global warming (respectively cooling) of the tropical atmosphere. an anomalous divergence (respectively convergence) in the lower levels and an anomalous convergence (respectively divergence) in the upper levels over tropical America and in the region of the Atlantic Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Such global features are not so apparent for the dominant mode of JJAS. even though the correlations with El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicators (as SOI or NINO3 SST index) are as high as for the other seasons.The bipolar N-S rainfall anomaly mode in tropical America is mostly related to anomalous N-S gradient of SST anomalies in the tropical Atlantic. The atmospheric circulation anomalies emphasize changes in 850 hPa meridional winds in the tropical Atlantic. However, there is also interannual variance of this rainfall mode in both the model and observations that is unexplained by tropical Atlantic SSTs, but which is explained by central/eastern tropical Pacific SSTs and, potentially, SSTs from other tropical and extratropical areas. This is especially true in MAM.


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