Influence of cold air intrusions on the wet season onset over Amazonia

Journal Article

Using 15-yr data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-15), the authors found that rapid southeastward expansion of the rainy area from the western Amazon to southeastern Brazil is a result of midlatitude cold air intrusions. During austral spring, as the large-scale thermodynamic structure over Amazonia becomes destabilized, the incursions of extratropical cold air can trigger intense rainfall along the leading edge of northwest-southeast-oriented cold fronts east of the Andes. As these fronts penetrate into Amazonia, the northerly or northwesterly wind transports warm, moist air from the western Amazon to southeast Brazil. Moisture convergence consequently intensifies, resulting in northwest-southeast-elongated rainy areas. The latter contribute to the observed rapid, southeastward expansion of rainy areas shown in rainfall climatology during austral spring. The authors' analysis suggests that cold air intrusions during austral spring collectively assist the transformation of large-scale thermodynamic and dynamic environments to those favorable for the wet season onsets. Each time the cold fronts pass by, they tend to increase the atmospheric humidity and the buoyancy of the lower troposphere, which destabilizes the atmosphere. In the upper troposphere, the cold air intrusions supply kinetic energy for the development of anticyclonic flow. Cold air intrusions in the transitional season are not different from those occurring immediately before the wet season onsets except that the latter occurs under a more humid and unstable atmospheric condition. Thus, cold air intrusions can trigger the wet season onsets only when atmospheric and land surface conditions are "ready" for the onset. Comparisons among early, normal, and late onsets on an interannu al scale further suggest that more frequent and stronger cold air intrusions trigger the early onsets of wet seasons given suitable large-scale thermodynamic conditions. Likewise, less frequent and weaker cold air intrusions could delay the wet season onset even though the large-scale thermodynamic conditions appear to be favorable. Occasionally, strong unstable atmospheric thermodynamic conditions and northerly reversal of cross-equatorial flow can lead to wet season onsets without cold air intrusions. In such cases, enhanced precipitation is centered over central and eastern Amazon, and rainfall increases more gradually compared to the onset with cold air intrusions. © 2006 American Meteorological Society.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Li, W; Fu, R

Published Date

  • 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 257 - 275

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0894-8755

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1175/JCLI3614.1