Caribbean Sea rainfall variability during the rainy season and relationship to the equatorial Pacific and tropical Atlantic SST

Renguang Wu, Ben P. Kirtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


The present study investigates the Caribbean Sea rainfall variability during the early and late rainy seasons and its association with sea surface temperature (SST) and air-sea interaction based on observational estimates, the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) and Global Forecast System (GFS) simulations, and the CFS retrospective forecasts. Analysis of the observational estimates indicates that air-sea interaction is important over the Caribbean Sea, whereas the atmospheric forcing of SST dominates over the Gulf of Mexico. The CFS simulation captures the basic elements of this observed air-sea relationship. The GFS simulation produces spurious SST forcing of the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico largely due to prescribing SST. The CFS forecasts capture the air-sea relationship in the late rainy season (August-October), but cannot reproduce the SST forcing of atmosphere over the Caribbean Sea in the early rainy season (May-July). An empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis indicates that the leading modes of percent anomalies of the rainy season precipitation have the largest loading in the southern Caribbean Sea in observations. The model simulations and forecasts skillfully reproduce the spatial pattern, but not the temporal evolution. The Caribbean Sea rainfall variability in the early rainy season is mainly due to the tropical North Atlantic (TNA) SST anomalies in observations, is contributed by both the TNA and eastern equatorial Pacific (EEP) SST anomalies in the CFS simulation, and has an overly large impact from the EEP SST anomalies in the GFS simulation and the CFS forecasts. The observed Caribbean Sea rainfall variability in the late rainy season has a leading impact from the EEP SST anomalies, with a secondary contribution from the TNA SST anomalies. In comparison, the model simulations and forecasts overestimate the impacts of the EEP SST anomalies due to an earlier development and longer duration of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation in the CFS compared to observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1533-1550
Number of pages18
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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