Impact of Warmer Eastern Tropical Pacific SST on the March 2015 Atacama Floods
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Northern Chile hosts the driest place on Earth in the Atacama Desert. Nonetheless, an extreme precipitation event affected the region on 24-26 March 2015 with 1-day accumulated precipitation exceeding 40mm in several locations and hourly mean rainfall rates higher than 10mm h(-1), producing floods and resulting in casualties and significant damage. The event is analyzed using ERA-Interim, surface station data, sounding observations, and satellite-based radar. Two main conditions favorable for precipitation were present at the time of the event: (i) a cutoff low (COL) off the coast of northern Chile and (ii) positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the eastern tropical Pacific. The circulation driven by the COL was strong but not extraordinary. Regional Climate Model, version 4 (RegCM4), is used to test the sensitivity of precipitation to SST anomalies by removing the warm SST anomaly in the eastern tropical Pacific. The cooler simulation produced very similar COL dry dynamics to that simulated in a control run (with observed SST), but suppressed the precipitation by 60%-80% over northern Chile and 100% in parts of the Atacama Desert due to the decreased availability of precipitable water. The results indicate that the warm SST anomaly over the eastern Pacific, favored by the onset of El Nino 2015/16, was instrumental to the extreme precipitation event by providing an anomalous source of water vapor transported to Atacama by the circulation ahead of the COL.
Artículo de publicación ISI
Cita del ítemMonthly Weather Review Volume: 144 Issue: 11 Pages: 4441-4460 Nov 2016
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