The seasonal evolution of the atmospheric circulation over West Africa and Equatorial Africa

Nicholson, S.E.; Grist, J.P. ORCID: 2003 The seasonal evolution of the atmospheric circulation over West Africa and Equatorial Africa. Journal of Climate, 16 (7). 1013-1030.<1013:TSEOTA>2.0.CO;2

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This paper examines the mean annual cycle of rainfall and general circulation features over West Africa and central Africa for 1958–97. Rainfall is examined using a 1400-station archive compiled by the first author. Other circulation features are examined using the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis dataset. Important features of the reanalysis zonal wind field are shown to compare well with the seasonal evolution described by the radiosonde observations. In addition to the well-known African easterly jet (AEJ) of the Northern Hemisphere, the seasonal evolution of its Southern Hemisphere counterpart is also described. Thermal wind calculations show that although the southern jet is weaker, its existence is also due to a local reversal of the surface temperature gradient. In the upper troposphere, a strong semiannual cycle is shown in the 200-mb easterlies and a feature like the tropical easterly jet (TEJ) is evident south of the equator in January and February. The paper describes the movement of the rainbelt between central and West Africa. An asymmetry in the northward and southward migration of the rainbelt is evident. The paper discusses the influence that the jets may have on rainfall and possible feedback effects of rainfall on the jets. Evidence suggests that the midtropospheric jets influence the development of the rainy season, but also that the rainfall affects the surface temperature gradient and in turn the jets. In the Northern Hemisphere, east of 20°E, the axis of the TEJ is located so that it may promote convection by increasing upper-level divergence. However, west of 10°E and in the Southern Hemisphere, the location of the TEJ is consistent with the suggestion that it is the equatorward outflow of convection that produces the TEJ.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):<1013:TSEOTA>2.0.CO;2
ISSN: 0894-8755
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Date made live: 06 May 2004 +0 (UTC)

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