Effects of Central American Mountains on the Eastern Pacific Winter ITCZ and Moisture Transport*

  • Xu H
  • Xie S
  • Wang Y
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The intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is displaced to the south edge of the eastern Pacific warm pool in boreal winter, instead of being collocated. A high-resolution regional climate model is used to investigate the mechanism for this displaced ITCZ. Under the observed sea surface temperature (SST) and lateral boundary forcing, the model reproduces the salient features of eastern Pacific climate in winter, including the southward displaced ITCZ and gap wind jets off the Central American coast. As the northeast trades impinge on the mountains of Central America, subsidence prevails off the Pacific coast, pushing the ITCZ southward. Cold SST patches induced by three gap wind jets have additional effects of keeping the ITCZ away from the coast. In an experiment in which both the Central American mountains and their effect on SST are removed, the ITCZ shifts considerably northward to cover much of the eastern Pacific warm pool. The Central American mountains are considered important to freshwater transport from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, which in turn plays a key role in global ocean thermohaline circulation. The results of this study show that this transport across Central America is not very sensitive to the fine structure of the orography because the increased flow in the mountain gaps in a detailed topography run tends to be compensated for by broader flow in a smoothed topography run. Implications for global climate modeling are discussed.

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  • Haiming Xu

  • SP Xie

  • Yuqing Wang

  • RJ Small

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