The mean evolution of the West African monsoon (WAM) circulation and its interannual variability have been studied using an ensemble of 21 simulations (common period 1961-1994) performed with four different atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) (European Center/Hamburg (ECHAM) 3, ECHAM 4, Action de Recherche Petite Echelle Grande Echelle (ARPEGE), and Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)) and forced by the same observed sea surface temperature (SST) data set. The results have been compared with European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses (ERA-40). The climatological means of WAM winds for the AGCMs are similar to the ERA-40 ones. However, the AGCMs tend to underestimate the southern wind component at low levels around 10degreesN compared to the ERA-40. The simulated Tropical Easterly Jet (TEJ) is usually shifted northward and also too weak for ECHAM 3 and ECHAM 4 compared to ERA-40. The interannual variability of an atmospheric WAM index (WAMI) is quite successfully reproduced ( the correlations between the mean ensemble of each AGCM and ERA-40 time series over 1961-1994 range between 0.51 and 0.64). In particular, the four AGCMs reproduce quite well the mean teleconnection structure with El Nino-Southern Oscillation, i.e., a strong (weak) monsoon during La Nina (El Nino) events, even if the largest absolute correlations between WAMI and SST in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific are weaker than in ERA-40. On a yearly basis, WAMI is more predictable and skillful during the cold ENSO years than during the warm ENSO ones. The unskillful warm ENSO events are associated with a significant cooling over the equatorial Atlantic and Western Pacific Ocean and a significant warming in the tropical Indian Ocean.
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