African monsoon teleconnections with tropical SSTs: Validation and evolution in a set of IPCC4 simulations

Abstract : A set of twelve state-of-the-art coupled ocean-atmosphere General Circulation Models (OAGCMs) is explored to assess their ability to simulate the main teleconnections between the West African monsoon (WAM) and the tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) at the interannual to multi-decadal time scales. Such teleconnections are indeed responsible for the main modes of precipitation variability observed over West Africa and represent an interesting benchmark for the models that have contributed to the 4th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC4). The evaluation is based on a Maximum Covariance Analysis (MCA) applied on tropical SSTs and WAM rainfall. To distinguish between interannual and multi-decadal variability, all datasets are partitioned into Low-Frequency (LF) and High-Frequency (HF) components prior to analysis. First applied to HF observations, the MCA reveals two major teleconnections. The first mode highlights the strong influence of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The second mode reveals a relationship between the SST in the Gulf of Guinea and the northward migration of the monsoon rainbelt over the West African continent. When applied to HF outputs of the 20th century IPCC4 simulations, the MCA provides heterogeneous results. Most simulations show a single dominant Pacific teleconnection, which is however of the wrong sign for half of the models. Only one model shows a significant second mode, emphasizing the AGCMs'difficulty in simulating the response of the African rainbelt to Atlantic SST anomalies that are not synchronous with Pacific anomalies. The LF modulation of these HF teleconnections is then explored through running correlations between Expansion Coefficients (ECs) for SSTs and precipitation. The observed time series indicate that both Pacific and Atlantic teleconnections get stronger during the 20th century. The IPCC4 simulations of the 20th and 21st centuries do not show any significant change in the pattern of the teleconnections, but the dominant ENSO teleconnection also 2 exhibits a significant strengthening, thereby suggesting that the observed trend could be partly a response to the anthropogenic forcing. Finally, the MCA is also applied to the LF data. The first observed mode reveals a wellknown inter-hemispheric SST pattern that is strongly related to the multi-decadal variability of the WAM rainfall dominated by the severe drying trend from the 1950s to the 1980s. Whereas recent studies suggest that this drying could be partly caused by anthropogenic forcings, only five among the twelve IPCC4 models capture some features of this LF coupled mode. This result suggests the need for a more detailed validation of the WAM variability, including a dynamical interpretation of the SST-rainfall relationships.
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Pré-publication, Document de travail
40 pages. 2006
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Mathieu Joly, Aurore Voldoire, Hervé Douville, Pascal Terray, Jean-François Royer. African monsoon teleconnections with tropical SSTs: Validation and evolution in a set of IPCC4 simulations. 40 pages. 2006. 〈meteo-00996738〉

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