Author(s): Slingo J, Spencer H, Hoskins B, Berrisford P, Black E
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Abstract This paper reviews the meteorology of the Western Indian Ocean and uses a state-of-the-art atmospheric general circulation model to investigate the influence of the East African Highlands on the climate of the Indian Ocean and its surrounding regions. The new 44-year re-analysis produced by the European Centre for Medium range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) has been used to construct a new climatology of the Western Indian Ocean. A brief overview of the seasonal cycle of the Western Indian Ocean is presented which emphasizes the importance of the geography of the Indian Ocean basin for controlling the meteorology of the Western Indian Ocean. The principal modes of inter-annual variability are described, associated with El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole or Zonal Mode, and the basic characteristics of the subseasonal weather over the Western Indian Ocean are presented, including new statistics on cyclone tracks derived from the ECMWF re-analyses. Sensitivity experiments, in which the orographic effects of East Africa are removed, have shown that the East African Highlands, although not very high, play a significant role in the climate of Africa, India and Southeast Asia, and in the heat, salinity and momentum forcing of the Western Indian Ocean. The hydrological cycle over Africa is systematically enhanced in all seasons by the presence of the East African Highlands, and during the Asian summer monsoon there is a major redistribution of the rainfall across India and Southeast Asia. The implied impact of the East African Highlands on the ocean is substantial. The East African Highlands systematically freshen the tropical Indian Ocean, and act to focus the monsoon winds along the coast, leading to greater upwelling and cooler sea-surface temperatures.
This article was published in Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci
and referenced in Journal of Climatology & Weather Forecasting