Rainfall and its seasonality over the Amazon in the 21st century as assessed by the coupled models for the IPCC AR4

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Abstract

[1] The global climate models for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) predict very different changes of rainfall over the Amazon under the SRES A1B scenario for global climate change. Five of the eleven models predict an increase of annual rainfall, three models predict a decrease of rainfall, and the other three models predict no significant changes in the Amazon rainfall. We have further examined two models. The UKMO-HadCM3 model predicts an El Niño-like sea surface temperature (SST) change and warming in the northern tropical Atlantic which appear to enhance atmospheric subsidence and consequently reduce clouds over the Amazon. The resultant increase of surface solar absorption causes a stronger surface sensible heat flux and thus reduces relative humidity of the surface air. These changes decrease the rate and length of wet season rainfall and surface latent heat flux. This decreased wet season rainfall leads to drier soil during the subsequent dry season, which in turn can delay the transition from the dry to wet season. GISS-ER predicts a weaker SST warming in the western Pacific and the southern tropical Atlantic which increases moisture transport and hence rainfall in the Amazon. In the southern Amazon and Nordeste where the strongest rainfall increase occurs, the resultant higher soil moisture supports a higher surface latent heat flux during the dry and transition season and leads to an earlier wet season onset.

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