Climate Dynamics

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 815–837

Seasonality and time scales in the relationship between global SST and African rainfall


    • Meteorologisches InstitutUniversität Bonn
  • Petra Friederichs
    • Meteorologisches InstitutUniversität Bonn
Original Articles

DOI: 10.1007/s00382-004-0466-1

Cite this article as:
Paeth, H. & Friederichs, P. Climate Dynamics (2004) 23: 815. doi:10.1007/s00382-004-0466-1


The main goal of this study is to determine the oceanic regions corresponding to variability in African rainfall and seasonal differences in the atmospheric teleconnections. Canonical correlation analysis (CCA) has been applied in order to extract the dominant patterns of linear covariability. An ensemble of six simulations with the global atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM4, forced with observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and sea ice boundary variability, is used in order to focus on the SST-related part of African rainfall variability. Our main finding is that the boreal summer rainfall (June–September mean) over Africa is more affected by SST changes than in boreal winter (December–March mean). In winter, there is a highly significant link between tropical African rainfall and Indian Ocean and eastern tropical Pacific SST anomalies, which is closely related to El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). However, long-term changes are found to be associated with SST changes in the Indian and tropical Atlantic Oceans, thus, showing that the tropical Atlantic plays a critical role in determining the position of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Since ENSO is less in summer, the tropical Pacific and the Indian Oceans are less important for African rainfall. The African summer monsoon is strongly influenced by SST variations in the Gulf of Guinea, with a response of opposite sign over the Sahelian zone and the Guinean coast region. SST changes in the subtropical and extratropical oceans mostly take place on decadal time scales and are responsible for low-frequency rainfall fluctuations over West Africa. The modelled teleconnections are highly consistent with the observations. The agreement for most of the teleconnection patterns is remarkable and suggests that the modelled rainfall anomalies serve as suitable predictors for the observed changes.

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© Springer-Verlag 2004