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Southwest Indian Ocean SST Variability

PI: Gillian Kay
Institution: Oxford University
Abstract:
Understanding natural climate variability and how it could be modified under climate change is recognised to be an important and pragmatic way to address climate change adaptation in southern Africa. Hence, a knowledge of how African rainfall variability relates to natural variability and how this relationship is simulated by coupled models, the prime tools for projections of climate change, is one prerequisite for climate change adaptation on the continent. An anomalous SST pattern, associated with summer rainfall extremes over southern Africa, has been observed in this section of the Indian Ocean. Experiments carried out using the HadAM3 model have shown this anomalous SST gradient in the southwest Indian Ocean to produce a large atmospheric circulation response over southern Africa. We have found that this pattern is also a leading mode of rainfall-related SST variability in the southwest Indian Ocean in a coupled model - the HadCM3 1000-year simulation. We have investigated the evolution of the SST anomaly pattern through a range of atmospheric and oceanic variables in the model. We plan to use the AR4 data to carry out a systematic examination of southwest Indian Ocean SST variability in coupled models to discover what modes of rainfall-related SST variability exist, and how these evolve, now and in the future. Analysis of this type, as noted above, is very important in enhancing understanding of how climate variability over southern Africa is linked to current and future natural modes of variability in coupled models.
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