Skip to main content
Log in

An Atlantic influence on Amazon rainfall

  • Published:
Climate Dynamics Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Rainfall variability over the Amazon basin has often been linked to variations in Pacific sea surface temperature (SST), and in particular, to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). However, only a fraction of Amazon rainfall variability can be explained by ENSO. Building upon the recent work of Zeng (Environ Res Lett 3:014002, 2008), here we provide further evidence for an influence on Amazon rainfall from the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The strength of the North Atlantic influence is found to be comparable to the better-known Pacific ENSO connection. The tropical South Atlantic Ocean also shows some influence during the wet-to-dry season transition period. The Atlantic influence is through changes in the north-south divergent circulation and the movement of the ITCZ following warm SST. Therefore, it is strongest in the southern part of the Amazon basin during the Amazon’s dry season (July–October). In contrast, the ENSO related teleconnection is through anomalous east-west Walker circulation with largely concentrated in the eastern (lower) Amazon. This ENSO connection is seasonally locked to boreal winter. A complication due to the influence of ENSO on Atlantic SST causes an apparent North Atlantic SST lag of Amazon rainfall. Removing ENSO from North Atlantic SST via linear regression resolves this causality problem in that the residual Atlantic variability correlates well and is in phase with the Amazon rainfall. A strong Atlantic influence during boreal summer and autumn is particularly significant in terms of the impact on the hydro-ecosystem which is most vulnerable during the dry season, as highlighted by the severe 2005 Amazon drought. Such findings have implications for both seasonal-interannual climate prediction and understanding the longer-term changes of the Amazon rainforest.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Adler RF, Huffman GJ, Chang A, Ferraro R, Xie PP, Janowiak J, Rudolf B, Schneider U, Curtis S, Bolvin D, Gruber A, Susskind J, Arkin P, Nelkin E (2003) The version-2 global precipitation climatology project (GPCP) monthly precipitation analysis (1979-present). J Hydrometeorol 4:1147–1167

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carton JA, Huang BH (1994) Warm evnets in the tropical Atlantic. J Phys Oceanogr 24:888–903

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chang P, Saravanan R, Ji L (2003) Tropical Atlantic seasonal predictability: the roles of El Nino remote influence and thermodynamic air-sea feedback. Geophys Res Lett 30:1501. doi:10.1029/2002GL016119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen TC (1985) Global water-vapor flux and maintenance during FGGE. Mon Weather Rev 113:1801–1819

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen MY, Xie PP, Janowiak JE, Arkin PA (2002) Global land precipitation: A 50-year monthly analysis based on gauge observations. J Hydrometeorol 3:249–266

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cox PM, Betts RA, Jones CD, Spall SA, Totterdell IJ (2000) Acceleration of global warming due to carbon-cycle feedbacks in a coupled climate model. Nature 408:184–187

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cox PM, Betts RA, Collins M, Harris PP, Huntingford C, Jones CD (2004) Amazonian forest dieback under climate-carbon cycle projections for the 21st century. Theor Appl Clim 78:137–156

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cox PM, Harris PP, Huntingford C, Betts RA, Collins M, Jones CD, Jupp TE, Marengo JA, Nobre CA (2008) Increasing risk of Amazonian drought due to decreasing aerosol pollution. Nature 453:U212–U217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Czaja A, Van der Vaart P, Marshall J (2002) A diagnostic study of the role of remote forcing in tropical Atlantic variability. J Clim 15:3280–3290

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • D’Almeida C, Vorosmarty CJ, Hurtt GC, Marengo JA, Dingman SL, Keim BD (2007) The effects of deforestation on the hydrological cycle in Amazonia: a review on scale and resolution. Int J Climatol 27:633–647

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dickinson RE (1987) The Geophysiology of Amazonia: vegetation and climate interactions. Wiley, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Dommenget D, Latif M (2002) A cautionary note on the interpretation of EOFs. J Clim 15:216–225

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Enfield DB (1996) Relationships of inter-American rainfall to tropical Atlantic and Pacific SST variability. Geophys Res Lett 23:3305–3308

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Enfield DB, Elfaro EJ (1999) The dependence of Caribbean rainfall on the interaction of the tropical Atlantic and Pacific oceans. J Clim 12:2093–2103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Enfield DB, Mayer DA (1997) Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature variability and its relation to El Nino Southern Oscillation. J Geophys Res 102:929–945

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fu R, Li W (2004) The influence of the land surface on the transition from dry to wet season in Amazonia. Theor Appl Clim 78:97–110

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Giannini A, Chiang JCH, Cane MA, Kushnir Y, Seager R (2001) The ENSO teleconnection to the tropical Atlantic Ocean: contributions of the remote and local SSTs to rainfall variability in the tropical Americas. J Clim 14:4530–4544

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Giannini A, Saravanan R, Chang P (2004) The preconditioning role of tropical Atlantic variability in the development of the ENSO teleconnection: implications for the prediction of Nordeste rainfall. Clim Dyn 22:839–855

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Good P, Lowe JA, Collins M, Moufouma-Okia W (2008) An objective tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature gradient index for studies of south Amazon dry-season climate variability and change. Phil Trans Roy Soc B 363:1761–1766

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Handoh IC, Bigg GR, Matthews AJ, Stevens DP (2006a) Interannual variability of the tropical Atlantic independent of and associated with ENSO: Part II: the South Tropical Atlantic. Int J Climatol 26:1957–1976

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Handoh IC, Matthews AJ, Bigg GR, Stevens DP (2006b) Interannual variability of the tropical Atlantic independent of and associated with ENSO: Part I: the North Tropical Atlantic. Int J Climatol 26:1937–1956

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hastenrath S, Heller L (1977) Dynamics of climatic hazards in northeast Brazil. Quart J Roy Met Soc 103:77–92

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huang BH, Shukla J (2005) Ocean-atmosphere interactions in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic Ocean. J Clim 18:1652–1672

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huang BH, Schopf PS, Pan ZQ (2002) The ENSO effect on the tropical Atlantic variability: a regionally coupled model study. Geophys Res Lett 29:2039. doi:10.1029/2002GL014872

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kaiser HF (1958) The varimax criterion for analytic rotation in facot-analysis Psychometrika 23:187–200

    Google Scholar 

  • Kanamitsu M, Ebisuzaki W, Woollen J, Yang SK, Hnilo JJ, Fiorino M, Potter GL (2002) NCEP-DOE AMIP-II reanalysis (R-2). Bull Am Met Soc 83:1631–1643

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kousky VE, Kagano MT, Cavalcanti IFA (1984) A review of the Southern Oscillation - oceanic-atmospheric circulation changes and related rainfall anomalis. Tellus 36:490–504

    Google Scholar 

  • Kushnir Y, Robinson WA, Chang P, Robertson AW (2006) The physical basis for predicting Atlantic sector seasonal-to-interannual climate variability. J Clim 19:5949–5970

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Labat D, Ronchail J, Callede J, Guyot JL, De Oliveira E, Guimaraes W (2004) Wavelet analysis of Amazon hydrological regime variability. Geophys Res Lett 31:L02501. doi:10.1029/2003GL018741

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lanzante JR (1996) Lag relationships involving tropical sea surface temperatures. J Clim 9:2568–2578

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Latif M, Grotzner A (2000) The equatorial Atlantic oscillation and its response to ENSO. Clim Dyn 16:213–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li WH, Fu R, Dickinson RE (2006) Rainfall and its seasonality over the Amazon in the 21st century as assessed by the coupled models for the IPCC AR4. J Geophys Res 111 doi:10.1029/2005JD006355

  • Liu Z, Zhang Q, Wu L (2004) Remote impact on tropical Atlantic climate variability: statistical assessment and dynamic assessment. J Clim 17:1529–1549

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA (1992) Interannual variability of surface climate in the Amazon basin. Int J Climatol 12:853–863

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA, Hastenrath S (1993) Case-studies of extreme climatic events in the Amazon basin. J Clim 6:617–627

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA, Nobre CA, Tomasella J, Cardoso MF, Oyama MD (2008a) Hydro-climatic and ecological behaviour of the drought of Amazonia in 2005. Phil Trans Roy Soc B 363:1773–1778

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA, Nobre CA, Tomasella J, Oyama MD, De Oliveira GS, De Oliveira R, Camargo H, Alves LM, Brown IF (2008b) The drought of Amazonia in 2005. J Clim 21:495–516

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mariotti A, Zeng N, Lau KM (2002) Euro-Mediterranean rainfall and ENSO—a seasonally varying relationship. Geophys Res Lett 29:1621. doi:10.1029/2001GL014248

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mariotti A, Ballabrera-Poy J, Zeng N (2005) Tropical influence on Euro-Asian autumn rainfall variability. Clim Dyn 24:511–521

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marshall J, Kushner Y, Battisti D, Chang P, Czaja A, Dickson R, Hurrell J, McCartney M, Saravanan R, Visbeck M (2001) North Atlantic climate variability: phenomena, impacts and mechanisms. Int J Climatol 21:1863–1898

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moron V, Bigot S, Roucou P (1995) Rainfall variability in subequatorial America and Africa and relationships with the main sea-surface temperature modes (1951–1990). Int J Climatol 15:1297–1322

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moron V, Vautard R, Ghil M (1998) Trends, interdecadal and interannual oscillations in global sea surface temperatures. Clim Dyn 14:545–569

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moura AD, Shukla J (1981) On the dynamics of droughts in northeast Brazil—Observations, theory and numerical experiments with a general-circulation model. J Atm Sci 38:2653–2675

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Murakami M (1979) Large-scale aspects of deep convective activity over the GATE area. Mon Weather Rev 107:994–1013

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neelin JD, Su H (2005) Moist teleconnection mechanisms for the tropical South American and Atlantic sector. J Clim 18:3928–3950

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pezzi LP, Cavalcanti IFA (2001) The relative importance of ENSO and tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies for seasonal precipitation over South America: a numerical study. Clim Dyn 17:205–212

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rasmusson EM, Carpenter TH (1982) Variations in tropical sea-surface temperature and surface wind fields associated with the Souther Oscillation El-Nino. Mon Weather Rev 110:354–384

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rayner NA, Parker DE, Horton EB, Folland CK, Alexander LV, Rowell DP, Kent EC, Kaplan A (2003) Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century. J Geophys Res 108:4407. doi:10.1029/2002JD002670

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Richman MB (1986) Rotation of principal components. J Climatol 6:293–335

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ronchail J, Cochonneau G, Molinier M, Guyot JL, Chaves AGD, Guimaraes V, de Oliveira E (2002) Interannual rainfall variability in the Amazon basin and sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific and the tropical Atlantic Oceans. Int J Climatol 22:1663–1686

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ronchail J, Labat D, Callède J, Cochonneau G, Guyot JL, Filizola N, Oliveira Ed (2005) Discharge variability within the Amazon basin. Symposium S6 held during the Seventh IAHS Scientific Assembly. IAHS, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, pp 21–30

  • Ropelewski CF, Halpert MS (1987) Global and regional scale precipitation associated with the El-Nino southern oscillation. Mon Weather Rev 115:1606–1626

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rudolf B, Beck C, Grieser J, Schneider U (2005) Global precipitation analysis products: global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC). DWD, p Internet Publication

  • Ruiz-Barradas A, Carton JA, Nigam S (2000) Structure of interannual-to-decadal climate variability in the tropical Atlantic sector. J Clim 13:3285–3297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salati E, Nobre CA (1991) Possible climatic impacts of Tropical deforestation. Clim Change 19:177–196

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saravanan R, Chang P (2000) Interaction between tropical Atlantic variability and El Nino-southern oscillation. J Clim 13:2177–2194

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sternberg LDL (2001) Savanna-forest hysteresis in the tropics. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 10:369–378

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sutton RT, Hodson DLR (2005) Atlantic Ocean forcing of North American and European summer climate. Science 309:115–118

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sutton RT, Jewson SP, Rowell DP (2000) The elements of climate variability in the tropical Atlantic region. J Clim 13:3261–3284

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tziperman E, Cane MA, Zebiak SE, Xue Y, Blumenthal B (1998) Locking of El Nino’s peak time to the end of the calendar year in the delayed oscillator picture of ENSO. J Clim 11:2191–2199

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Uvo CB, Tolle U, Berndtsson R (2000) Forecasting discharge in Amazonia using artificial neural networks. Int J Climatol 20:1495–1507

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walker GT (1928) Ceara (Brazil) famines and the general air movement. Beith Phys S freien Atmos 14:88–93

    Google Scholar 

  • Wang CZ (2002) Atlantic climate variability and its associated atmospheric circulation cells. J Clim 15:1516–1536

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xie PP, Arkin PA (1996) Analyses of global monthly precipitation using gauge observations, satellite estimates, and numerical model predictions. J Clim 9:840–858

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xie S-P, Carton JA (2004) Tropical Atlantic variability: patterns, mechanisms, and impacts: Ocean-Atmosphere interaction and climate variability. American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, pp 121–142

  • Zeng N (1999) Seasonal cycle and interannual variability in the Amazon hydrologic cycle. J Geophys Res 104:9097–9106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zeng N, Dickinson RE, Zeng XB (1996) Climatic impact of Amazon deforestation—a mechanistic model study. J Clim 9:859–883

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zeng N, Yoon JH, Marengo JA, Subramaniam A, Nobre CA, Mariotti A, Neelin JD (2008) Causes and impacts of the 2005 Amazon drought. Environ Res Lett 3:014002. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/3/1/014002

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank the Brazilian National Water Agency (ANA) for providing streamflow data, and individuals for discussion and analysis: Drs. A. Mariotti, P. Arkin, R. Joseph, D. Vila, Mr. David Myers, and Mr. Brian Cook. The manuscript has been significantly improved by comments from two anonymous reviewers and Editor E. Schneider. This research was supported by NOAA grants NA04OAR4310091 and NA04OAR4310114, NSF grant ATM0739677, and NASA grant 407191AG7.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jin-Ho Yoon.

Appendix 1: Emperical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis

Appendix 1: Emperical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis

Principal component analysis has been used to identify coherent interannual variability patterns over the Atlantic Ocean (e.g., Ruiz-Barradas et al. 2000). Here, rotated multivariate (rainfall and SST) EOF is adapted to summarize our findings. Conventional approaches are taken, such as normalization by individual variables’ standard deviation, and the first five eigenmodes meeting a criterion of explaining >5% of the variance each (together they explain more than 68%) were then rotated, while preserving the orthogonality in time, but relaxing it in space. In particular, the total number of grid points for both variables have been adjusted using interpolation, to reduce the possibility that one variable dominates the other. By relaxing the spatial orthogonality constraint, the spatial patterns of the rotated eigenvectors should be more directly related to the natural patterns of variability in the physical system (Richman 1986), and becomes more useful in identifying localized variability in Atlantic Ocean (Dommenget and Latif 2002). A number of algorithm choices are possible for rotation. Here the varimax method is used following Kaiser’s (1958) approach.

To emphasize the relative roles of different oceanic SSTs on Amazon rainfall, we rank our eigenmodes in decreasing order of local variance over the Amazon basin rather than following a conventional decreasing order of global variance of each mode. To achieve this, each reconstructed eigenmode [Z(x,y,t)] is obtained by multiplying its eigencoefficient [C(t)] and eigenvector [E(x,y)], in other words projecting these modes back to the time-space domain. The standard deviation of Amazon basin averaged rainfall of each eigenmode is computed. The first three modes, using this local variance ranking, are displayed in Fig. 11.

Fig. 11
figure 11

Rotated Multivariate EOF (RMEOF) of rainfall (Xie and Arkin 1996) over tropical South America (north of 22°S) and SSTs (Rayner et al. 2003) over the tropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The contour interval is 0.2 (°C and day−1). The variance of precipitation over the Amazon explained by these three modes is 57.9% for North Atlantic SST, 30.4% for tropical Pacific SST, and 7.8% for South Atlantic SST

One of the advantages of the RMEOF is isolation of the temporally orthogonal variability. It is well known that both tropical Atlantic oceanic SSTs and Amazon rainfall are affected by the interannual variability of the tropical Pacific Ocean (e.g., Enfield 1996; Zeng 1999). By employing this RMEOF, we can present three different patterns of interannual variability, connecting Amazon rainfall and the surrounding oceanic SST’s. Tropical North Atlantic and Pacific influence on Amazon rainfall variability in interannual timescales are actually separated in RMEOF analysis. These patterns are arranged in the decreasing order of its influence on Amazon rainfall variability. The largest pattern is associated with the North Atlantic Ocean (58%). The second and third ones are related to the tropical Pacific Ocean (30%), and the South Atlantic Ocean (8%), respectively. These magnitudes of variance are slightly different from those obtained from multiple linear regression. This could be due to numerical relaxation of orthogonality for the spatial pattern. For example, the western side of the tropical Atlantic Ocean is more closely correlated with tropical ENSO (Enfield and Mayer 1997). Yet, this analysis separates the western Atlantic variability from the Pacific variability, so that some portion of variance in the first pattern (Fig. 11) might not be pure Atlantic influence on Amazon rainfall. Consistent patterns of interannual variability with previously identified ones are found in Fig. 11. Also, this is consistent with observations and model results which show that the SST over the tropical Atlantic affects the interannual variability of climate over the Nordeste and the eastern Amazon (Hastenrath and Heller 1977; Marengo 1992; Moura and Shukla 1981; Ronchail et al. 2002). The influence of Pacific SSTs on the interannual variation of South American rainfall is concentrated over the northern part of the Amazon and northeastern Brazil (Nordeste).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Yoon, JH., Zeng, N. An Atlantic influence on Amazon rainfall. Clim Dyn 34, 249–264 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-009-0551-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-009-0551-6

Keywords

Navigation