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Mechanisms controling the sea surface temperature and precipitation anomalies during contrasted years, 2010 and 2012, in the tropical Atlantic

Abstract : The Atlantic Marine ITCZ (AMI) is a regional manifestation of the ITCZ over the warm water of the tropical Atlantic oceans. Few studies have been devoted to document the processes driving the evolution of the SST and precipitation, most of which were centered on the eastern side of the basin. The present study provides an analysis of the evolution of the ocean and the atmosphere over the Western part of the Atlantic for two contrasted years in Sea Surface Temperature (SST), 2010 and 2012, that were respectively the warmest and coldest years observed during the 1982-2015 period. The causes of interannual and seasonal anomalies of SST are first explored via an oceanic mixed-layer (ML) heat budget performed from Argo floats, satellite-based data and ERAI-Interim atmospheric reanalysis for the period 2007-2012. The surface latent heat flux was found to be under-estimated by 20 W/m2 and conducted to erroneous vertical mixing in the whole domain. Correction of these surface fluxes yielded to residuals which were assimilated to vertical turbulent mixing at the mixed-layer base, which fell into realistic range. Once corrected, the ML budget shows that the observed SST anomalies in 2010 and 2012 were generated by anomalous wind stress and, consequently, anomalous latent heat flux in the north Atlantic during winter. The wind-induced horizontal advection plays a fundamental role in balancing the surface flux in the south Atlantic in 2012. The north tropical Atlantic appears as a key region for the generation of the SSTs pattern observed in 2010 and 2012. The second part of the study analyses the building of the 2010 and 2012 rainfall anomalies and the underlying mechanisms. On seasonal average, 2010 shows a more intense rainfall over the basin while 2012 exhibits a meridional dipole of precipitation with a rainfall maximum shifted 5 degrees north of its climatological location. An analysis of the water budget integrated vertically indicates that the anomalous vertical advection of moisture is the leading term that contributed to the precipitation anomalies for both years and that anomalous horizontal wind has the greatest contribution to this term. At the intraseasonal scale, an analysis of the precipitation regimes reveal that 2010 favoured more frequent heavy rainfall than 2012 while 2012 was characterised by more frequent lighter rain. The relationships between the precipitation and some key factors such as SST and precipitable water (PW) are analysed within the AMI to understand how deep convection was altered under different SST conditions. The main results is that the 2010 shows a higher SST threshold than 2012 for strong rainfall to occur. The precipitation - PW relationships shows the existence of a threshold of precipitable water too, which depends on the years and the tropospheric temperature. It is underlined that the atmospheric warmer conditions in 2010 vs 2012 acted to "damp" the SST anomaly via Clausius-Clapeyron mechanism, i.e. by increasing the water vapour saturation threshold of the atmosphere. A spectral analysis of precipitation revealed that African Easterly Waves at periods of 2-10 days explain most of the difference in the variability of precipitation between both years. Finally a set of simulation realised with the limited-area atmospheric model Meso-Nh was used to understand the contribution of the ocean and the atmosphere to the anomalous precipitation for 2010. Sensitivity experiments to the SST and initial/lateral boundary conditions were performed. The rainfall simulated by Meso-NH when forcing the model with the SST from 2012 and keeping the lateral boundary conditions to those of 2010 are very close to the rainfall obtained for 2010. It shows that the key factor to determine the 2010 rainfall anomaly is not the SST but the atmospheric properties provided by the lateral boundary conditions i.e. the anomalous horizontal wind and the tropospheric temperature.
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Antonio Vasconcelos Nogueira Neto. Mechanisms controling the sea surface temperature and precipitation anomalies during contrasted years, 2010 and 2012, in the tropical Atlantic. Climatology. Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse III, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019TOU30010⟩. ⟨tel-02498758⟩

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