TITLE

Mesoscale Convective Systems over Western Equatorial Africa and Their Relationship to Large-Scale Circulation

AUTHOR(S)
Jackson, Brian; Nicholson, Sharon E.; Klotter, Douglas
PUB. DATE
April 2009
SOURCE
Monthly Weather Review;Apr2009, Vol. 137 Issue 4, p1272
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
This study examines mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) over western equatorial Africa using data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. This region experiences some of the world’s most intense thunderstorms and highest lightning frequency, but has low rainfall relative to other equatorial regions. The analyses of MCS activity include the frequency of occurrence, diurnal and annual cycles, and associated volumetric and convective rainfall. Also evaluated is the lightning activity associated with the MCSs. Emphasis is placed on the diurnal cycle and on the continental-scale motion fields in this region. The diurnal cycle shows a maximum in MCS count around 1500–1800 LT, a morning minimum, and substantial activity during the night; there is little seasonal variation in the diurnal cycle, suggesting stationary influences such as orography. Our analysis shows four maxima in MCS activity, three of which are related to local geography (two orographic and one over Lake Victoria). The fourth coincides with a midtropospheric convergence maximum in the right entrance quadrant of the African easterly jet of the Southern Hemisphere (AEJ-S). This maximum is substantially stronger in the September–November rainy season, when the jet is well developed, than in the March–May rainy season, when the jet is absent. Lightning frequency and flashes per MCS are also greatest during September–November; maxima occur in the right entrance quadrant of the AEJ-S. The lightning maximum is somewhat south of the MCS maximum and coincides with the low-lying areas of central Africa. Overall, the results of this study suggest that large-scale topography plays a critical role in the spatial and diurnal patterns of convection, lightning, and rainfall in this region. More speculative is the role of the AEJ-S, but this preliminary analysis suggests that it does play a role in the anomalous intensity of convection in western equatorial Africa.
ACCESSION #
43016971

 

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