The role of the sea surface temperature in the atmospheric seasonal cycle of the equatorial Atlantic
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionClimate Dynamics. 2018, 52, 5927–5946. 10.1007/s00382-018-4489-4
We investigate the role of sea surface temperature (SST) and land surface temperature (LST) in driving the seasonal cycle of the atmosphere (surface winds and precipitation) in the tropical Atlantic. For this we compare three atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) experiments for the historical period 1982–2013 forced by different SST: (1) observed daily-climatological SST, (2) globally annual-mean SST, and (3) annual-mean SST in the equatorial Atlantic and daily-climatological SST elsewhere. Seasonal variations in SST strongly influence the seasonal evolution of the West African Monsoon (WAM) and ITCZ over the equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Forcing the model with annual mean SST (globally and in the equatorial Atlantic) considerably reduces the seasonal variance in the atmosphere, except for the zonal winds in the eastern equatorial Atlantic. Equatorial Atlantic SST contributes to the seasonal cycle in precipitation and meridional winds over the entire equatorial Atlantic, but only strongly influences zonal winds in the western equatorial Atlantic and has little influence on the northward penetration of the WAM. The leading modes of coupled SST–LST-atmosphere co-variability are identified by multivariate analysis. The analysis shows that both LST and SST drive seasonal variations in precipitation over equatorial Atlantic, with the LST being a larger contributor to the continental rainfall in West Africa. The coupling between ocean and atmosphere is stronger in the western than in the eastern equatorial Atlantic. The pressure adjustment mechanism is the main driver of the surface meridional wind convergence in the eastern tropical Atlantic.