Intraseasonal variability of low-level moisture transport over West Africa

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Climate Dynamics, 2016, 47 (11), pp. 3575 - 3591
Issue Date:
2016-12-01
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© 2016, The Author(s). The vertically integrated surface-850 hPa atmospheric water vapor flux is investigated, to account for the total low-level moisture flux contribution to rainfall over West Africa (WA), based on NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data. The focus is the contributions to total moisture transport and convergence by the mean circulation, the synoptic ( < 10 days), and climate ( > 10 day) scale anomalies. For WA, the time-mean flow and climate anomalies are comparable. Similarly, for meridional and zonal components, transports by the time-mean and climate anomalies are the largest contributors to mean meridional and zonal moisture transport. While the climate anomalies are responsible for driving moisture poleward from the Atlantic Ocean to the Guinea coast, and westward from the western Atlantic Ocean into the Sahel, the synoptic anomalies contribute to transporting moisture zonally out of the Sahel. Moreover, the spatial distribution of moisture flux convergence reveals a close similarity to the observed 2005 relatively wet and 2006 relatively dry accumulative rainfall. Convergence in WA is mainly the result of moisture transport by the mean flow. An enhanced (weak) flux convergence by the mean flow is characteristic of wet (dry) Sahel rainfall seasons. During wet April-June rainy seasons in the Guinea coast, enhanced convergence due to synoptic anomalies is observed in the region, whereas it is suppressed during dry April-June seasons. In the Sahel, however, during the dry rainy seasons, the convergence region due to synoptic anomalies is displaced southward.
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