, Volume 17, Issue 2-3, pp 205-212

The relative importance of ENSO and tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies for seasonal precipitation over South America: a numerical study

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The role of tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies during ENSO episodes over northeast Brazil (Nordeste) is investigated using the CPTEC/COLA Atmospheric General Circulation Model (AGCM). Four sets of integrations are performed using SST in El Niño and La Niña (ENSO) episodes, changing the SST of the Atlantic Ocean. A positive dipole (SST higher than normal in the tropical North Atlantic and below normal in the tropical South Atlantic) and a negative dipole (opposite conditions), are set as the boundary conditions of SST in the Atlantic Ocean. The four experiments are performed using El Niño or La Niña SST in all oceans, except in the tropical Atlantic where the two phases of the SST dipole are applied. Five initial conditions were integrated in each case in order to obtain four ensemble results. The positive SST dipole over the tropical Atlantic Ocean and El Niño conditions over the Pacific Ocean resulted in dry conditions over the Nordeste. When the negative dipole and El Niño conditions over the Pacific Ocean were applied, the results showed precipitation above normal over the north of Nordeste. When La Niña conditions over Pacific Ocean were tested together with a negative dipole, positive precipitation anomalies occurred over the whole Nordeste. Using the positive dipole over the tropical Atlantic, the precipitation over Nordeste was below average. During La Niña episodes, the Atlantic Ocean conditions have a larger effect on the precipitation of Nordeste than the Pacific Ocean. In El Niño conditions, only the north region of Nordeste is affected by the Atlantic SST. Other tropical areas of South America show a change only in the intensity of anomalies. Central and southeast regions of South America are affected by the Atlantic conditions only during La Niña conditions, whereas during El Niño these regions are influenced only by conditions in the Pacific Ocean.

Received: 22 July 1999 / Accepted: 30 March 2000