A simple mechanism for the climatological midsummer drought along the Pacific coast of Central America

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Karnauskas, Kristopher B.
Seager, Richard
Giannini, A.
Busalacchi, Antonio J.
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Midsummer drought
The global distribution, seasonal evolution, and underlying mechanisms for the climatological midsummer drought (MSD) are investigated using a suite of relatively high spatial and temporal resolution station observations and reanalysis data with particular focus on the Pacific coast of Central America and southern Mexico. Although the MSD of Central America stands out in terms of spatial scale and coherence, it is neither unique to the Greater Caribbean Region (GCR) nor necessarily the strongest MSD on Earth based on an objective analysis of several global precipitation data sets. A mechanism for the MSD is proposed that relates the latitudinal dependence of the two climatological precipitation maxima to the biannual crossing of the solar declination (SD), driving two peaks in convective instability and hence rainfall. In addition to this underlying local mechanism, a number of remote processes tend to peak during the apex of the MSD, including the North American monsoon, the Caribbean low-level jet, and the North Atlantic subtropical high, which may also act to suppress rainfall along the Pacific coast of Central America and generate interannual variability in the strength or timing of the MSD. However, our findings challenge the existing paradigm that the MSD owes its existence to a precipitation-suppressing mechanism. Rather, aided by the analysis of higher-temporal resolution precipitation records and considering variations in latitude, we suggest the MSD is essentially the result of one precipitation-enhancing mechanism occurring twice.
© ATMOSFERA, 2013. This article is posted here by permission of ATMOSFERA for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Atmósfera 26 (2013): 261-281.
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Atmósfera 26 (2013): 261-281
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