Dynamics of the West African Monsoon Jump
Journal of Climate
The observed abrupt latitudinal shift of maximum precipitation from the Guinean coast into the Sahel region in June, known as the West African monsoon jump, is studied using a regional climate model. Moisture, momentum, and energy budget analyses are used to better understand the physical processes that lead to the jump. Because of the distribution of albedo and surface moisture, a sensible heating maximum is in place over the Sahel region throughout the spring. In early May, this sensible
... this sensible heating drives a shallow meridional circulation and moisture convergence at the latitude of the sensible heating maximum, and this moisture is transported upward into the lower free troposphere where it diverges. During the second half of May, the supply of moisture from the boundary layer exceeds the divergence, resulting in a net supply of moisture and condensational heating into the lower troposphere. The resulting pressure gradient introduces an inertial instability, which abruptly shifts the midtropospheric meridional wind convergence maximum from the coast into the continental interior at the end of May. This in turn introduces a net total moisture convergence, net upward moisture flux and condensation in the upper troposphere, and an enhancement of precipitation in the continental interior through June. Because of the shift of the meridional convergence into the continent, condensation and precipitation along the coast gradually decline. The West African monsoon jump is an example of multiscale interaction in the climate system, in which an intraseasonal-scale event is triggered by the smooth seasonal evolution of SSTs and the solar forcing in the presence of land-sea contrast.