skip to main content

Title: Easterly Waves in the East Pacific during the OTREC 2019 Field Campaign

Easterly waves (EWs) are off-equatorial tropical synoptic disturbances with a westward phase speed between 11 and 14 m s−1. Over the east Pacific in boreal summer, the combination of EWs and other synoptic disturbances, plus local mechanisms associated with sea surface temperature (SST) gradients, define the climatological structure of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). The east Pacific ITCZ has both deep and shallow convection that is linked to deep and shallow meridional circulations, respectively. The deep convection is located around 9°N over warm SSTs. The shallow convection is located around 6°N and is driven by the meridional SST gradient south of the ITCZ. This study aims to document the interaction between east Pacific EWs and the deep and shallow meridional circulations during the Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC) field campaign in 2019 using field campaign observations, ERA5, and satellite precipitation. We identified three EWs during the OTREC period using precipitation and dynamical fields. Composite analysis shows that the convectively active part of the EW enhances ITCZ deep convection and is associated with an export of column-integrated moist static energy (MSE) by vertical advection. The subsequent convectively suppressed, anticyclonic part of the EW produces an increase of moisture and column-integrated MSE by horizontal advection that likely enhances shallow convection and the shallow overturning flow at 850 hPa over the southern part of the ITCZ. Therefore, EWs appear to strongly modulate shallow and deep circulations in the east Pacific ITCZ.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 4071-4088
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    This study investigates how convectively coupled tropical easterly waves (TEWs) affect the Choco low-level jet (ChocoJet) as they move across the western Caribbean. The ChocoJet is a low-level flow over the eastern Pacific (EPAC) that modulates precipitation patterns over the tropical eastern Pacific and northwestern South America. By combining data from the Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC; August–September 2019), ERA5 reanalysis products, and satellite data, we analyze precipitation and circulation patterns during convectively coupled and nonconvectively coupled TEWs, comparing them to non-TEW days. During convectively coupled TEWs days, the ChocoJet strengthens and becomes more southerly, while the ITCZ moves northward, leading to enhanced precipitation over the western Caribbean and drier conditions over the northern part of the Colombian Pacific. In contrast, nonconvectively coupled TEW days exhibit reduced precipitation and precipitable water over the Caribbean and far EPAC, with a layer of northeasterly flow centered at 850 hPa flowing over a shallower, weaker, and more westerly ChocoJet. Additionally, convectively coupled TEWs are associated with a weaker western Caribbean and far eastern Pacific pressure gradient compared to nonconvective TEWs. These observable and predictable synoptic-scale circulation–precipitation relationships contribute to a better understanding of hydrometeorological variability in the region.

    Significance Statement

    Tropical easterly waves and related convective organization traversing the Caribbean Sea are important sources of synoptic-scale precipitation–circulation variability in the far eastern Pacific and Colombian Pacific. This eastern tropical Pacific study aims to identify precipitation–circulation relationships that enhance the understanding of synoptic-scale meteorological phenomena.

    more » « less
  2. Longstanding climate model biases in tropical precipitation exist over the east Pacific (EP) Ocean, especially during boreal winter and spring when models have excessive Southern Hemisphere (SH) precipitation near the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). In this study, we document the impact of convectively coupled waves (CCWs) on EP precipitation and the ITCZ using observations and reanalyses. We focus on the months when SH precipitation peaks in observations: February–April (FMA). CCWs explain 93% of total precipitation variance in the SH, nearly double the percent (48%) of the NH during FMA. However, we note that these percentages are inflated as they inevitably include the background variance. We further investigate the three leading high-frequency wave bands: mixed Rossby–gravity waves and tropical depression–type disturbances (MRG–TD type), Kelvin waves, andn= 0 eastward inertia–gravity waves (IG0). Compared to their warm pool counterparts, these three CCWs have a more zonally elongated and meridionally narrower precipitation structure with circulations that resemble past observational studies and/or shallow water theory. We quantify the contribution of all CCWs to four different daily ITCZ “states”: Northern Hemisphere (NH) (nITCZ), SH (sITCZ), double (dITCZ), and equatorial (eITCZ) using a new precipitation-based ITCZ-state algorithm. We find that the percent of total precipitation variance explained by each of the CCWs is heightened for sITCZs and eITCZs and diminished for nITCZs. Last, we find that nITCZs are most prevalent weeks after strong CCW activity happens in the NH, whereas CCWs and sITCZs peak simultaneously in the SH.

    Significance Statement

    Convectively coupled atmospheric waves (CCWs) are a critical feature of tropical weather and are an important source of precipitation near the region of highest precipitation on Earth called the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Given three decades of climate model biases in CCWs and ITCZ precipitation over the east Pacific (EP) Ocean during spring, few studies have examined the relationship between CCWs and the springtime EP ITCZ. We explored the CCWs and EP ITCZ relationship through calculations of the percent of precipitation that comes from CCWs. A significant portion of the tropical precipitation is associated with CCWs during spring. CCWs are even more impactful when the ITCZ is in the SH or on the equator, which are both problematic in climate models.

    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract This study investigates the transition of a Panama Bight mesoscale convective system (MCS) into the easterly wave (EW) that became Hurricane Carlotta (2012). Reanalysis, observations, and a convective-permitting Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulation are used to analyze the processes contributing to EW genesis. A vorticity budget analysis shows that convective coupling and vortex stretching are very important to the transition in this case, while horizontal advection is mostly responsible for the propagation of the system. In the model, the disturbance is dominated by stratiform vertical motion profiles and a midlevel vortex, while the system is less top-heavy and is characterized by more prominent low-level vorticity later in the transition in reanalysis. The developing disturbance starts its evolution as a mesoscale convective system in the Bight of Panama. Leading up to MCS formation the Chocó jet intensifies, and during the MCS-to-EW transition the Papagayo jet strengthens. Differences in the vertical structure of the system between reanalysis and the model suggest that the relatively more bottom-heavy disturbance in reanalysis may have stronger interactions with the Papagayo jet. Field observations like those collected during the Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC) campaign are needed to further our understanding of this east Pacific EW genesis pathway and the factors that influence it, including the important role for the vertical structure of the developing disturbances in the context of the vorticity budget. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Convectively coupled waves (CCWs) over the Western Hemisphere are classified based on their governing thermodynamics. It is found that only the tropical depressions (TDs; TD waves) satisfy the criteria necessary to be considered a moisture mode, as in the Rossby-like wave found in an earlier study. In this wave, water vapor fluctuations play a much greater role in the thermodynamics than temperature fluctuations. Only in the eastward-propagating inertio-gravity (EIG) wave does temperature govern the thermodynamics. Temperature and moisture play comparable roles in all the other waves, including the Madden–Julian oscillation over the Western Hemisphere (MJO-W). The moist static energy (MSE) budget of CCWs is investigated by analyzing ERA5 data and data from the 2014/15 observations and modeling of the Green Ocean Amazon (GoAmazon 2014/15) field campaign. Results reveal that vertical advection of MSE acts as a primary driver of the propagation of column MSE in westward inertio-gravity (WIG) wave, Kelvin wave, and MJO-W, while horizontal advection plays a central role in the mixed Rossby gravity (MRG) and TD wave. Results also suggest that cloud radiative heating and the horizontal MSE advection govern the maintenance of most of the CCWs. Major disagreements are found between ERA5 and GoAmazon. In GoAmazon, convection is more tightly coupled to variations in column MSE, and vertical MSE advection plays a more prominent role in the MSE tendency. These results along with substantial budget residuals found in ERA5 data suggest that CCWs over the tropical Western Hemisphere are not represented adequately in the reanalysis.

    Significance Statement

    In comparison to other regions of the globe, the weather systems that affect precipitation in the tropical Western Hemisphere have received little attention. In this study, we investigate the structure, propagation, and thermodynamics of convectively coupled waves that impact precipitation in this region. We found that slowly evolving tropical systems are “moisture modes,” i.e., moving regions of high humidity and precipitation that are maintained by interactions between clouds and radiation. The faster waves are systems that exhibit relatively larger fluctuations in temperature. Vertical motions are more important for the movement of rainfall in these waves. Last, we found that reanalysis and observations disagree over the importance of different processes in the waves that occurred over the Amazon region, hinting at potential deficiencies on how the reanalysis represents clouds in this region.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract. The Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC) field campaign, conducted August through October 2019, focuses on studying convection in the eastern Pacific and the Caribbean. An unprecedented number of dropsondes were deployed (648) during 22 missions to study the region of strong sea surface temperature (SST) gradients in the eastern Pacific region, the region just off the coast of Columbia, and in the uniform SST region in the southwestern Caribbean. The dropsondes were assimilated in the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) model. This study quantifies departures, observed minus the model value of a variable, in dropsonde denial experiments and studies time series of convective variables, saturation fraction which measures moisture and instability index and deep convective inhibition which quantify atmospheric stability and boundary layer stability to convection, respectively.Departures are small whether dropsondes are assimilated or not, except in a special case of developing convection and organization prior to Tropical Storm Ivo where wind departures are significantly larger when dropsondes are not assimilated. Departures are larger in cloudy regions compared to cloud-free regions when comparing a vertically integrated departure with a cloudiness estimation. Abovementioned variables are all well represented by the model when compared to observations, with some systematic deviations in and above the boundary layer. Time series of these variables show artificial convective activity in the model, in the eastern Pacific region off the coast of Costa Rica, which we hypothesize occurs due to the overestimation of moisture content in that region. 
    more » « less