Response of the West African Monsoon to the Madden–Julian Oscillation

Sally L. Lavender, Adrian J. Matthews

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Observations show that rainfall over West Africa is influenced by the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). A number of mechanisms have been suggested: 1) forcing by equatorial waves; 2) enhanced monsoon moisture supply; and 3) increased African easterly wave (AEW) activity. However, previous observational studies are not able to unambiguously distinguish between cause and effect. Carefully designed model experiments are used to assess these mechanisms. Intraseasonal convective anomalies over West Africa during the summer monsoon season are simulated in an atmosphere-only global circulation model as a response to imposed sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies associated with the MJO over the equatorial warm pool region. 1) Negative SST anomalies stabilize the atmosphere leading to locally reduced convection. The reduced convection leads to negative midtropospheric latent heating anomalies that force dry equatorial waves. These waves propagate eastward (Kelvin wave) and westward (Rossby wave), reaching Africa approximately 10 days later. The associated negative temperature anomalies act to destabilize the atmosphere, resulting in enhanced monsoon convection over West and central Africa. The Rossby waves are found to be the most important component, with associated westward-propagating convective anomalies over West Africa. The eastward-propagating equatorial Kelvin wave also efficiently triggers convection over the eastern Pacific and Central America, consistent with observations. 2) An increase in boundary layer moisture is found to occur as a result of the forced convective anomalies over West Africa rather than a cause. 3) Increased shear on the African easterly jet, leading to increased AEW activity, is also found to occur as a result of the forced convective anomalies in the model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4097-4116
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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