Springer

On the linear response of tropical African climate to SST changes deduced from regional climate model simulations

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Previous studies have highlighted the crucial role of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the tropical Atlantic region in forcing the summer monsoon rainfall over subsaharan West Africa. Understanding the physical processes, relating SST variations to changes in the amount and distribution of African rainfall, is a key factor in improving weather and climate forecasts in this highly vulnerable region.

Here, we present sensitivity experiments from a regional climate model with prescribed warmer tropical SSTs, according to enhanced greenhouse conditions at the end of the 21st century. This dynamical downscaling approach provides information about the nonlinear response of the atmosphere to oceanic heating. It has been suggested that the response is at least partly accounted for by the linear theory of tropical dynamics, involving a Kelvin and Rossbywave response to a tropical heat source. We compute the major modes of the linear Matsuno-Gill model for geopotential height and horizontal wind components and project the simulated response patterns onto these linear modes, in order to evaluate to which extent the simple linear theory may explain the SST-induced climate anomalies over Africa. A multivariate Hotelling T2 test is used to evaluate whether these anomalies are statistically significant.

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