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African easterly wave energetics on intraseasonal timescales




Alaka, Ghassan J., Jr., author
Maloney, Eric D., advisor
Schubert, Wayne H., committee member
Schumacher, Russ S., committee member
Venayagamoorthy, Subhas K., committee member

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African easterly waves (AEWs) are synoptic-scale eddies that dominate North African weather in boreal summer. AEWs propagate westward with a maximum amplitude near 700 hPa and a period of 2.5-6-days. AEWs and associated perturbation kinetic energy (PKE) exhibit significant intraseasonal variability in tropical North Africa during boreal summer, which directly impacts local agriculture and tropical cyclogenesis. This study performs a comprehensive analysis of the 30-90-day variability of AEWs and associated energetics using both reanalysis data and model output. Specifically, the PKE and perturbation available potential energy (PAPE) budgets are used to understand the factors that contribute to PKE maxima in West Africa and the extent to which these surges of AEW activity are modulated by the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO). The role of the MJO in the intraseasonal variability of AEWs is assessed by comparing PKE sources as a function of an MJO index and a local 30-90-day West African PKE index. Since East Africa is an initiation zone for AEW activity and is modulated by the MJO, the relationship between this region and West Africa is a primary focus in this study. The intraseasonal variability of AEW energetics is first investigated in reanalysis products. While reanalysis data depicts a similar evolution of 30-90-day PKE anomalies in both the MJO and a local PKE index, the MJO index describes only a small (yet still significant) fraction of the local 30-90-day variance. In boreal summers with more significant MJO days, the correlation between the two indices is higher. Baroclinic energy conversions are important for the initiation of 30-90-day West African PKE events east of Lake Chad. In West Africa, both barotropic and baroclinic energy conversions maintain positive PKE anomalies before they propagate into the Atlantic. The primary role of diabatic heating is to destroy PAPE in a negative feedback to baroclinic energy conversions in West Africa. More frequent East Atlantic tropical cyclone generation is associated with positive PKE events than with negative PKE events. Easterly wave activity is then examined in a regional model. The Advanced Research Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF-ARW) simulates West African monsoon climatology more accurately than the WRF Nonhydrostatic Mesoscale Model (WRF-NMM). Although the WRF-NMM produces more realistic boreal summer rainfall than the WRF-ARW, it fails to accurately simulate the AEJ and other key West African monsoon features. Parameterizations within the WRF-ARW are scrutinized as well, with the WRF single-moment 6-class microphysics and the Noah land surface model outperforming Thompson microphysics and the RUC land surface model. Three ten-year WRF-ARW experiments are performed to investigate the role of external forcing on intraseasonal variability in West Africa. In addition to a control simulation, two sensitivity experiments remove 30-90-day variability from the boundary conditions (for all zonal wavenumbers and just for eastward zonal wavenumbers 0-10). Overall, intraseasonal variability of AEWs shows only modest differences after the removal of all 30-90-day input into the model boundary conditions. PKE and PAPE budgets reveal that simulated positive PKE events in West Africa are preceded by extensions of the AEJ into East Africa, which enhance barotropic and baroclinic energy conversions in this region. This jet extension is associated with warm lower-tropospheric temperature anomalies in the eastern Sahara. In West Africa, the amplitude of PKE and PAPE budget terms exhibit a similar evolution (even in the sensitivity experiments) as in the reanalysis products.


2014 Fall.

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African easterly wave
energy budget
Madden-Julian oscillation


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