, Volume 21, Issue 3-4, pp 289-307
Date: 19 Jun 2003

Interannual Antarctic tropospheric circulation and precipitation variability

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Abstract

Main modes of variability of the Antarctic tropospheric circulation (500 hPa geopotential height) and precipitation are identified through their empirical orthogonal functions (EOF). This is done by combining various sources of information, including meteorological analyses and forecasts (NCEP and ECMWF), atmospheric general circulation model (LMDZ) simulations, and satellite data (GPCP). Unlike previous similar work on circulation variability, the mode analyses are restricted to the Antarctic region. The main modes that relate the Antarctic region to the mid and tropical latitudes, e.g. in association with ENSO, are nonetheless clearly identified and thus robust. The contribution of the sea-surface or of the circumpolar Antarctic atmospheric dynamics to the occurrence and to the chronology of these modes is evaluated through various atmospheric model simulations. EOF analyses results are somewhat less stable, across the various datasets, and more noisy for precipitation than for circulation. Yet, through moisture advection considerations, the two most significant precipitation modes can be well related to the three main modes of circulation variability. The signatures of both the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) and the Antarctic Oscillation Index (AOI) are found in one same precipitation mode, suggesting that they have a substantially common spatial structure. In addition, the relative strength of the signature of the AOI and SOI appears to change in time. In particular, the signature of the SOI was weak in the 1980s precipitations, but turned very strong in the 1990s. Common spatial patterns and variable strength in time may explain why hints of an ENSO signature in Antarctic precipitation have been reported but not unequivocally demonstrated so far.