Effect of SST Variation on ITCZ in APE Simulations

by K Rajendran,A Kitoh, and J Srinivasan

The effect of meridional variation of sea surface temperature (SST) on tropical atmospheric circulation is analyzed using Aqua-planet Experiment (APE)simulations. The meridional SST gradient around the narrow SST peak in Control simulation favours a strong and single equatorial Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ, defined by the maximum of zonally averaged total precipitation) in all APE models. In contrast, flat equatorial SST peak (FLAT simulation)favours split/double ITCZs flanking the SST maximum, in the majority of the APE models. Although there is reasonable agreement for SST sensitivity of ITCZ  among the APE models in Control, there exists disparity among them in FLAT case. Similarly, while the total and convective precipitation responses are consistent among the models, the large-scale precipitation response shows considerable inter-model variations in FLAT case. The APE intercomparison indicates that the occurrence and positioning of the ITCZ are primarily related to boundary layer moisture convergence as a response to the meridional variation of SST. Furthermore, the meridional gradient of tropospheric temperature is found to be an important factor that can influence the positioning of ITCZ.

FLAT SST distribution is found to be similar to the observed distribution over the Indian region during summer season. Models that yield double ITCZs in this case simulate an easterly jet over the equatorial region (~15° equatorward of the ITCZ). This is analogous to the Tropical Easterly Jet (TEJ), which is a unique feature observed over the Indian region during summer monsoon season, with its core at 12°N, equatorward of the seasonal convergence zone centered along 25°N. In these models, positive meridional temperature gradient and the associated easterly shear in the atmosphere strengthened by moisture convergence penetrate up to the upper troposphere, with which TEJ is in thermal wind balance.

Citation: Rajendran, K., A. Kitoh, and J. Srinivasan, 2013: Effect of SST variation on ITCZ in APE simulations. J. Meteor. Soc. Japan, 91A, doi:10.2151/jmsj.2013-A06.

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