Water vapour transport associated with tropical-temperate trough systems over southern Africa and the southwest Indian Ocean

M. C. Todd, R. Washington, P. I. Palmer

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Tropical–temperate trough (TTT) systems are the dominant rain-producing synoptic type over southern Africa. They represent an important mechanism of poleward transport of energy and momentum. This paper provides an analysis of water vapour transport in TTT systems. An objective sampling of TTT systems is conducted from analysis of daily satellite rainfall products. During the sampled TTT events, rain bands extend from tropical southern Africa near 10 °S to the midlatitudes of the southwest Indian Ocean. The divergent and non-divergent (streamfunction) components of vertically integrated water vapour flux associated with major TTT events are calculated, from National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis data. During TTT events the streamfunction circulation dominates water vapour transport, although adjustments to the divergent component are relatively more important. The results indicate that TTT events facilitate a substantial water vapour flux from the tropics into the midlatitudes. Water vapour transport to the midlatitudes along the TTT axis is facilitated largely by changes to the streamfunction, associated with a strengthening and eastward displacement of the Indian Ocean high, and the advent of midlatitude transients. It is also shown that TTT systems are major regions of moisture convergence. The high vapour concentrations along the full extent of the TTT rain bands are maintained by the divergent circulation. The structure of these divergent vapour flux anomalies is suggestive of adjustments to the Walker circulation, involving strong anomalous divergence over the maritime continent/west Pacific and a weaker enhancement of the major divergence centre over the tropical Atlantic. Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-568
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2004


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