Variability of the Amazon climate and links to changes in weather patterns

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Katia D. Fernandes, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia; and R. Fu

Whether the hydrological cycle and weather patterns in the Amazon have changed during the past few decades is a highly debatable but central question for detecting climate change in the region. Recent changes of synoptic scale systems frequency and intensity are consistent with an observed delayed wet season onset in southern Amazon in the period 1979-2001. The variability of cold air incursion (CAI) into southern Amazon is related to the variability of SST upstream of South America in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. A Singular Value Decomposition Analysis (SVD) between CAI days and global SST reveal three main modes of co-variability. The first mode describes the effect of the El Niņo-Southern Oscillation. During El Niņo (La Niņa) a strong (weak) subtropical jet stream over South America tends to prevent transient systems from moving to southern Amazon, resulting in decreased (increased) CAI days during SON. The second mode of co-variability shows an anomalously warm western Indian Ocean also related to strong subtropical jet stream, except the jet is positioned farther north in South America, which along with the absence of a well defined subpolar jet stream, favors the northward displacement of transient waves into central South America, but show little response in southern Amazon. The CAI days reconstructed from the first and second modes do not present any significant trend in southern Amazon. CAI days reconstructed from the third mode of co-variability on the other hand, reproduces the SON observed trend in almost its entirety. The third mode of co-variability describes negative (positive) anomalies in CAI days associated with cold (warm) SST anomalies in the eastern tropical Pacific, anomalous wavetrain in the Southern Hemisphere and Walker Cell displacement that are unfavorable (favorable) to the incursion of CAI into southern Amazon. The temporal evolution of this mode correlates negatively with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, suggesting that the recent gradual shift in PDO polarity reflected on the interannual response of Southern Pacific atmospheric patterns, hence on the behavior of transients propagation. The negative PDO index and its related atmospheric patterns are in agreement with the reduced observed CAI days, which also related to a delayed wet season onset in the southern Amazon.