Thorncroft C. D., N. M. Hall and G. N. Kiladis (November 2008): Three-Dimensional Structure and Dynamics of African Easterly Waves. Part III: Genesis. J. Atmos. Sci., 65 (11), 3596-3607. doi:10.1175/2008JAS2575.1

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Abstract

This paper promotes the view that African easterly waves (AEWs) are triggered by localized forcing, most likely associated with latent heating upstream of the region of observed AEW growth. A primitive equation model is used to show that AEWs can be triggered by finite-amplitude transient and localized latent heating on a zonally varying basic state that is linearly stable. Heating close to the entrance region of the African easterly jet (AEJ) is shown to initiate AEWs downstream. The heating leads to an initial trough that reaches the West African coast about 5–7 days later, depending on the nature of the heating profile. After this, a structure that projects strongly onto the leading linear normal mode of the basic state becomes established, characterized by a number of westward-propagating disturbances that strongly resemble AEWs. The sensitivity of the forced AEWs to the nature and location of the heating profile is examined. AEWs are most efficiently triggered by heating profiles that establish lower tropospheric circulations close to the entrance region of the AEJ. In the present study, this was best achieved by lower tropospheric heating from shallow convection or upper-level heating and lower-level cooling from a stratiform precipitation profile. Both profiles have significant heating gradients in the vertical in the mid-to-lower troposphere. This triggering paradigm for the genesis of AEWs has consequences for the variability and predictability of AEWs at weather and climate time scales. In addition to the nature of the AEJ, often emphasized, it is crucial to consider the nature and variability of upstream heating triggers.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: PSD Publications
Divisions: Physical Sciences Division
DOI: 10.1175/2008JAS2575.1
URI: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/pubs/id/eprint/832