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The impact of Indian Ocean mean-state biases in climate models on the representation of the East African short rains

Hirons, L. and Turner, A. (2018) The impact of Indian Ocean mean-state biases in climate models on the representation of the East African short rains. Journal of Climate, 31 (16). pp. 6611-6631. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0804.1

Abstract/Summary

The role of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) in controlling interannual variability in the East African short rains, from October to December, is examined in state-of-the-art models and in detail in one particular climate model. In observations, a wet short-rainy season is associated with the positive phase of the IOD and anomalous easterly low-level flow across the equatorial Indian Ocean. A model's ability to capture the teleconnection to the positive IOD is closely related to its representation of the mean-state. During the short-rains season, the observed low-level wind in the equatorial Indian Ocean is westerly. However, half of the models analysed exhibit mean-state easterlies across the entire basin. Specifically, those models that exhibit mean-state low-level equatorial easterlies in the Indian Ocean, rather than the observed westerlies, are unable to capture the latitudinal structure of moisture advection into East Africa during a positive IOD. Furthermore, the associated anomalous easterly surface wind stress causes upwelling in the eastern Indian Ocean. This upwelling draws up cool sub-surface waters, enhancing the zonal sea-surface temperature gradient between west and east and strengthening the positive IOD pattern, further amplifying the easterly wind stress. This positive Bjerknes coupled feedback is stronger in easterly mean-state models, resulting in a wetter East African short rain precipitation bias in those models.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:76818
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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