Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Temporal and spatial variability of SSTs in the tropical Atlantic and Indian Oceans

  • S. E. Nicholson
  • B. S. Nyenzi


The objective of this study is to describe spatial and temporal patterns of sea-surface temperature (SST) variability in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The analysis domain extends from 40°S to 25°N and 50°W to 80°E, hence the tropical and most of the South Atlantic and central and western Indian Oceans. The investigation, covering the years 1948 to 1979, utilizes the COADS marine data set. Empirical orthogonal functions and spectral analysis are used to analyze SST fields.

A major finding of this investigation is that SSTs vary coherently throughout most of the analysis domain. The greatest coherence is evident from ∼10°N to 30°S in the Atlantic and from ∼20°N to 35°S in the western Indian Ocean. Spectral analysis of regional time series shows that throughout this region the time scale of 5–6 years is the dominant one in the fluctuations; this is also the case for the Southern Oscillation and for equatorial rainfall. SST variations are roughly in-phase within each ocean and the two oceans are roughly in-phase with each other, i.e., the lags which exist are much smaller than the dominant time scale of the fluctuations. The SST anomalies appear to propagate eastward from NE Brazil; the eastern Atlantic lags the western by two to six months and the Indian Ocean lags the western Atlantic by four to eight months.


Climate Change Time Series Waste Water Coherence Water Pollution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adamec, D., O'Brien, J. J., 1978: The seasonal upwelling in the Gulf of Guinea due to remote forcing.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,8, 1050–1060.Google Scholar
  2. Arkin, P. A., 1982: The relationship between interannual variability in the 200 mb tropical wind field and the Southern Oscillation.Mon. Wea. Rev.,110, 1391–1404.Google Scholar
  3. Barnett, T. P., Preisendorfer, R. W., 1978: Multifield analog prediction of short-term climatic fluctuations using a climate state vector.J. Atmos. Sci.,35, 1771–1787.Google Scholar
  4. Barnett, T. P., 1983: Interaction of the monsoon and Pacific trade wind system at interannual time scales. Part 1: The equatorial zone.Mon. Wea. Rev.,111, 756–773.Google Scholar
  5. Barnett, T. P., 1984: Interaction of the monsoon and Pacific trade wind system at interannual time scales. Part III: A partial anatomy of the Southern Oscillation.Mon. Wea. Rev.,112, 2388–2400.Google Scholar
  6. Barnston, A. G., Livezey, R. E., 1987: Classification, seasonality and persistance of low-frequency atmospheric circulation patterns.Mon. Wea. Rev.,115, 1083–1126.Google Scholar
  7. Buell, C. E., 1979: On the physical interpretation of empirical orthogonal functions. Preprints of the Sixth Conference on Prob. and Stats. in Atmos. Sci., American Meteor. Soc., 112–117.Google Scholar
  8. Cadet, D. L., Diehl, B. C., 1984: Interannual variability of surface fields over the Indian Ocean during recent decades.Mon. Wea. Rev.,112, 1921–1935.Google Scholar
  9. Cadet, D. L., 1985: The Southern Oscillation over the Indian Ocean.J. Climate,5, 189–212.Google Scholar
  10. Cattell, R. B., 1966: The scree test for the number of factors.Multivariate Behavioral Res.,1, 245–276.Google Scholar
  11. Guttmann, L., 1954: Some necessary conditions for common-factor analysis.Psychometrika,19, 149–161.Google Scholar
  12. Hastenrath, S., 1978: On modes of tropical circulation and climate anomalies.J. Atmos. Sci.,35, 2222–2231.Google Scholar
  13. Hastenrath, S., 1984: Predictability of north-east Brazil droughts.Nature,307, 531–533.Google Scholar
  14. Horel, D. J., 1981: A rotated principal component analysis of the interannual variability of the Northern Hemisphere 500 mb height field.Mon. Wea. Rev.,109, 2080–2092.Google Scholar
  15. Hsiung, J., Newell, R., 1983: The principal nonseasonal modes of variation of global sea-surface temperature.J. Phys. Oceanogr.,13, 1952–1967.Google Scholar
  16. Kaiser, H. F., 1958: The varimax criterion for analytic rotation in factor analysis.Psychometrika,23, 187–200.Google Scholar
  17. Kaiser, H. F., 1960: The application of electronic computes to factor analysis.Ed. Psychol. Measure.,20, 141–151.Google Scholar
  18. Krishnamurti, T. N., 1986:Workbook on NWP for the Tropics for Training of Class I and Class II Meteorological Personnel. WMO-No. 669, 355 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Kutzbach, J. E., 1967: Empirical eigenvectors of sea-level pressure, surface temperature and precipitation complexes over North America.J. Appl. Meteor.,6, 791–802.Google Scholar
  20. Kutzbach, J. E., 1970: Large-scale features of monthly mean Northern Hemisphere anomaly maps of sea-level pressure.Mon. Wea. Rev.,98, 709–716.Google Scholar
  21. Lorenz, E., 1956: Empirical orthogonal functions and statistical weather prediction, Sci. Rep. No. 1, Statistical Forecasting Project, MIT, 48 pp.Google Scholar
  22. Lough, J. M., 1986: Tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and rainfall variations in Subsaharan Africa.Mon. Wea. Rev.,114, 561–570.Google Scholar
  23. Madden, R. A., 1986: Seasonal variations of the 40–50 day oscillation in the tropics.J. Atm. Sci.,43, 3138–3158.Google Scholar
  24. Meehl, G. A., 1987: The annual cycle and interannual variability in the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.Mon. Wea. Rev.,115, 27–50.Google Scholar
  25. Merle, J., Fieux, M., Hisard, P., 1980: Annual signal and interannual anomalies of sea-surface temperature in the eastern equatorial Atlantic Ocean. In:GATE-2 Equatorial and A-scale Oceanography. (Duing, W. ed.), Supplement II toDeep-Sea Research, Part A, Vol. 26, New York: Pergamon Press, 77–101.Google Scholar
  26. Moura, A. D., Shukla, J., 1981: On the dynamics of droughts in Northeast Brazil: Observations, theory and numerical experiments with a general circulation model.J. Atmos. Sci.,38, 2653–2675.Google Scholar
  27. Nicholson, S. E., Entekhabi, D., 1986: The quasi-periodic behavior of rainfall in Africa and its relationship to the Southern Oscillation.Arch. Met. Geoph. Biokl., Ser. A,34, 311–348.Google Scholar
  28. Nicholson, S. E., Entekhabi, D., 1987: Rainfall variability in Equatorial and Southern Africa: Relationships with sea-surface temperature along the southwest coast of Africa.J. Climate, Appl. Meteor.,26, 561–578.Google Scholar
  29. Overland, J. E., Preisendorfer, R. W., 1982: A significance test for principal components applied to a cyclone climatology.Mon. Wea. Rev.,110, 1–4.Google Scholar
  30. Preisendorfer, R. W., Barnell, T. P., 1977: Significance tests for empirical orthogonal functions. Preprints Fifth Conf. Probability and Statistics in Atmospheric Sciences, Las Vegas, Amer. Meteor. Soc., 169–172.Google Scholar
  31. Quenouille, M. H., 1952:Associated Measurements. New York City: Academic Press, 242 pp.Google Scholar
  32. Reverdin, G., Cadet, D. L., Gutzler, D., 1986: Interannual displacements of convection and surface circulation over the equatorial Indian Ocean.Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.,112, 43–67.Google Scholar
  33. Richman, M. B., 1981: Obliquely rotated principal components: An improved meteorological map typing technique?J. Appl. Meteor.,20, 1145–1159.Google Scholar
  34. Rodhe, H., Virji, H., 1976: Trends and periodicities in East Africa rainfall data.Mon. Wea. Rev.,104, 307–315.Google Scholar
  35. Rummel, R. J., 1970:Applied Factor Analysis. Northwestern University Press, 617 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Semazzi, F. H. M., Mehta, V., Sud, Y. C., 1988: An investigation of the relationship between sub-Saharan rainfall and global sea surface temperatures.Atmosphere-Ocean,26, 118–138.Google Scholar
  37. Servain, J., Picaut, J., Busalacchi, A. J., 1985: Interannual and seasonal variability of Tropical Atlantic Ocean depicted by sixteen years of sea-surface temperature and wind stress. In:Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Models. (Nihoul, J. C. J., ed.), Elsevier Oceanography Series,40, 211–237.Google Scholar
  38. Servain, J., Legler, D. M., 1986: Empirical orthogonal function analyses of tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperature and wind stress: 1964–1979.J. Geophys. Res.,91, 181–191.Google Scholar
  39. Shukla, J., Misra, B. M., 1977: Relationships between sea surface temperature and wind speed over the Central Arabian Sea, and monsoon rainfall over India.Mon. Wea. Rev.,105, 998–1002.Google Scholar
  40. Slutz, R. J., Lubker, S. J., Hiscox, J. D., Woodruff, S. D., Jenne, R. L., Joseph, D. H., Seurer, P. M., Elms, J. D., 1985: COADS-Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set. CIRES/ERL/NCAR/NCDC, Boulder, Colorado.Google Scholar
  41. Thurstone, L. L., 1947:Multiple Factor Analysis. The University of Chicago Press, 535 pp.Google Scholar
  42. Tripoli, G. J., Krishnamurti, T. N., 1975: Low-level flows over the GATE area during summer 1972.Mon. Wea. Rev.,103, 197–216.Google Scholar
  43. Walsh, J. E., Richman, M. B., 1981: Seasonality in the associations between temperatures over the United States and the North Pacific Ocean.Mon. Wea. Rev.,109, 767–783.Google Scholar
  44. Weare, B. C., 1977: Empirical orthogonal analysis of Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures.Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc.,103, 467–478.Google Scholar
  45. Yasunari, T., 1985: Zonally propagating modes of the global East-West circulation associated with the Southern Oscillation.J. Meteor. Soc. Japan,63, 1013–1029.Google Scholar
  46. Yasunari, T., 1987: Global structure of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. Part III. Time Evolution.J. Meteor. Soc. Japan,65, 81–102.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. E. Nicholson
    • 1
  • B. S. Nyenzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MeteorologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations