Transition of the large-scale atmospheric and land surface conditions from the dry to the wet season over Amazonia as diagnosed by the ECMWF re-analysis

Journal Article

Using 15-yr instantaneous European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA) data, the authors have examined the large-scale atmospheric conditions and the local surface fluxes through the transition periods from the dry to wet seasons over the southern Amazon region (5°-15°S, 45°-75°W). The composite results suggest that the transition can be divided into three phases: initiating, developing, and mature. The initiating phase is dominated by the local buildup of the available potential energy. This begins about 90 days prior to the onset of the wet season by the increase of local land surface fluxes, especially latent heat flux, which increases the available potential energy of the lower troposphere. The cross-equatorial flow and upper-tropospheric circulation remain unchanged from those of the dry season. The developing phase is dominated by the seasonal transition of the large-scale circulation, which accelerates by dynamic feedbacks to an increase of locally thermal-driven rainfall, starting about 45 days before the onset of the wet season. During this stage, the reversal of the low-level, cross-equatorial flow in the western Amazon increases moisture transport from the tropical Atlantic Ocean and leads to net moisture convergence in the southern Amazon region. In the upper troposphere, the divergent kinetic energy begins to be converted into rotational kinetic energy, and geopotential height increases rapidly. These processes lead to the onset of the wet season and the increase of anticyclonic vorticity at the upper troposphere. After onset, the lower-tropospheric potential energy reaches equilibrium, but the conversion from divergent to rotational kinetic energy continues to spin up the upper-tropospheric anticyclonic circulation associated with the Bolivian high until it reaches its full strength. This analysis suggests that a weaker (stronger) increase of land surface latent (sensible) heat flux during the dry season and the initiating phase tends to delay the large-scale circulation transition over the Amazon. The influence of land surface heat fluxes becomes secondary during the developing and mature phases after the transition of the large-scale circulation begins. A later northerly reversal and/or weaker cross-equatorial flow, a later southerly withdrawal of the upper-tropospheric westerly wind, and a stronger subsidence could delay and prolong the developing phase of the transition and consequently delay the onset of the Amazon wet season. © 2004 American Meteorological Society.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Li, W; Fu, R

Published Date

  • 2004

Published In

  • Journal of Climate

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 13

Start / End Page

  • 2637 - 2651

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1175/1520-0442(2004)017<2637:TOTLAA>2.0.CO;2