The role of the meridional sea surface temperature gradient in controlling the Caribbean low-level jet
Maldonado Mora, Tito José
Pausata, Francesco Salvatore Rocco
Alfaro Martínez, Eric J.
Amador Astúa, Jorge Alberto
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The Caribbean low‐level jet (CLLJ) is an important modulator of regional climate, especially precipitation, in the Caribbean and Central America. Previous work has inferred, due to their semiannual cycle, an association between CLLJ strength and meridional sea surface temperature (SST) gradients in the Caribbean Sea, suggesting that the SST gradients may control the intensity and vertical shear of the CLLJ. In addition, both the horizontal and vertical structure of the jet have been related to topographic effects via interaction with the mountains in Northern South America (NSA), including funneling effects and changes in the meridional geopotential gradient. Here we test these hypotheses, using an atmospheric general circulation model to perform a set of sensitivity experiments to examine the impact of both SST gradients and topography on the CLLJ. In one sensitivity experiment, we remove the meridional SST gradient over the Caribbean Sea and in the other, we flatten the mountains over NSA. Our results show that the SST gradient and topography have little or no impact on the jet intensity, vertical, and horizontal wind shears, contrary to previous works. However, our findings do not discount a possible one‐way coupling between the SST and the wind over the Caribbean Sea through friction force. We also examined an alternative approach based on barotropic instability to understand the CLLJ intensity, vertical, and horizontal wind shears. Our results show that the current hypothesis about the CLLJ must be reviewed in order to fully understand the atmospheric dynamics governing the Caribbean region.
- Meteorología