1 Multi-Scale Climate Processes and Rainfall Variability over the Maritime Continent of Southeast Asia

Monday, 9 July 2012
Staffordshire (Westin Copley Place)
Jian-Hua (Joshua) Qian, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA

High-resolution observations and regional climate model simulations reveal that precipitation over the Maritime Continent is mostly concentrated over islands. Analysis of the diurnal cycles of precipitation and winds indicates that this is predominantly caused by sea-breeze convergence over islands, reinforced by mountain–valley winds and further amplified by the cumulus merger processes. Comparison of a regional climate model control simulation to a flat-island run and an all-ocean run demonstrates that the underrepresentation of islands and terrain in the Maritime Continent weakens the atmospheric disturbance associated with the diurnal cycle, and hence underestimates precipitation. The implication of these regional modeling results is that systematic errors in coarse-resolution global circulation models probably result from insufficient representation of land–sea breezes associated with the complex topography in the Maritime Continent. It is found that precipitation in the Maritime Continent, simulated by a global model, is indeed smaller than observed. The simulated upper-atmospheric velocity potential, which represents large-scale tropospheric heating, was substantially displaced eastward compared to observations. Possible approaches toward solving this problem are suggested. The mechanisms for the spatial heterogeneity of climate variability over Java Island have also been studied. Besides the well- known anomalous dry conditions that characterize the dry and transition seasons during an El Nino year, analysis of regional model output reveals a wet mountainous south versus dry northern plains in precipitation anomalies associated with El Nino over Java during the peak rainy season. Modeling experiments indicate that this mountains/plains contrast is caused by the interaction of the El Nino–induced monsoonal wind anomalies and the island/mountain-induced local diurnal cycle of winds and precipitation. During the wet season of El Nino years, anomalous southeasterly winds over the Indonesian region oppose the climatological northwesterly monsoon, thus reducing the strength of the monsoon winds over Java. This weakening is found to amplify the local diurnal cycle of land–sea breezes and mountain–valley winds, producing more rainfall over the mountains, which are located closer to the southern coast than to the northern coast. Therefore, the variability of the diurnal cycle associated with this local spatial asymmetry of topography is the underlying cause for the heterogeneous pattern of wet south/dry north rainfall anomalies during El Nino years. It is further shown that the mean southeasterly wind anomalies during December–February of El Nino years result from more frequent occurrence of a quiescent monsoon weather type, during which the strengthened sea-breeze and valley-breeze convergence leads to above normal rainfall over the mountains.
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