Characterizing Drying in the South American Monsoon Onset Season with the Moist Static Energy Budget

Publication Year


Journal Article

The tropical atmospheric circulation and attendant rainfall exhibit seasonally dependent responses to increasing temperatures. Understanding changes in the South American monsoon system is of particular interest given the sensitivity of the southern Amazon rainforest to changes in dry season length. We utilize the latest Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Atmospheric Model (GFDL AM4) to analyze the response of the South American monsoon to uniform sea surface temperature (SST) warming. SST warming is a poorly understood yet impactful component of greenhouse gas–induced climate change. Region-mean rainfall declines by 11%, and net precipitation (precipitation minus evaporation) declines by 40%, during the monsoon onset season (September–November), producing a more severe dry season. The column-integrated moist static energy (MSE) budget helps elucidate the physical mechanisms of the simulated drying. Based on the seasonal analysis, precipitation reductions tend to occur when 1) a convecting region’s climatological MSE export is dominated by horizontal rather than vertical advection, and 2) the horizontal MSE advection increases in the perturbed climate, impeding ascent. On a synoptic scale, the South American low-level jet strengthens and exports more moisture from the monsoon sector, exacerbating spring drying.

Journal of Climate
Date Published
November 2020
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