92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Monday, 23 January 2012
Local Sea Surface Temperature Versus Large-Scale Circulation Influences on Tropical Ocean Rainfall
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Nat Johnson, Univ. of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI; and S. P. Xie and Y. Kosaka

Under global warming scenarios, global climate models project a ‘warmer-get-wetter' pattern of tropical ocean rainfall change, whereby rainfall tends to increase where local sea surface warming exceeds tropical mean sea surface warming. On interannual timescales, however, satellite observations of rainfall suggest that tropical ocean rainfall variability only follows this “relative sea surface temperature (SST)” variability in some regions, which suggests that in the other locations large-scale circulation variability dominates the local SST influence. Here we take a closer examination of tropical ocean rainfall/SST relationships to characterize the regions and seasons in which local rainfall is closely tied to local SST and those in which the large-scale circulation dominates the local SST influence. After isolating the regions in which rainfall is weakly tied to SST, we examine the large-scale circulation patterns that exert a strong influence on local rainfall. From the analysis of these patterns, we decipher mechanisms that contribute to the role of large-scale versus local influences on tropical ocean rainfall.

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