Untangling the importance of dynamic and thermodynamic drivers for wet and dry spells across the tropical Andes

Klein, Cornelia ORCID:; Hänchen, Lorenz; Potter, Emily R.; Junquas, Clémentine; Harris, Bethan L. ORCID:; Maussion, Fabien. 2023 Untangling the importance of dynamic and thermodynamic drivers for wet and dry spells across the tropical Andes. Environmental Research Letters, 18 (3), 034002. 11, pp.

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Andean vegetation and agriculture depend on the patterns of rainfall during the South American monsoon. However, our understanding on the importance of dynamic (upper-level wind circulation) as compared to thermodynamic (Amazon basin moisture) drivers for Andes rainfall remains limited. This study examines the effect of these drivers on 3–7 day wet and dry spells across the Tropical Andes and assesses resulting impacts on vegetation. Using reanalysis and remote sensing data from 1985–2018, we find that both dynamic and thermodynamic drivers play a role in determining the rainfall patterns. Notably, we show that the upper-level wind is an important driver of rainfall across the entire Tropical Andes mountain range, but not in the Amazon lowlands, suggesting a crucial role of topography in this relationship. From thermodynamic perspective, we find wet spell conditions to be associated with increased moisture along the Andes' eastern foothills accompanied by a strengthened South American low-level jet, with moisture lifted into the Andes via topography and convection for all considered regions. Our results suggest that while changes in Amazon basin moisture dominate rainfall changes on daily time scales associated with three day spells, upper-level dynamics play a more important role on the synoptic time scale of 5–7 day spells. Considering impacts on the ground, we find that only 5–7 day spells in the semi-arid Andes have a prolonged effect on vegetation. Our study emphasizes the need to consider both dynamic and thermodynamic drivers when estimating rainfall changes in the Tropical Andes, including in the context of future climate projections.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: tropical Andes, rainfall drivers, vegetation, wet spells, dry spells
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Meteorology and Climatology
Data and Information
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Date made live: 03 Nov 2023 13:09 +0 (UTC)

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