Climatology of Heavy Orographic Rainfall Induced by Tropical Cyclones over Madagascar: From Synoptic to Mesoscale Perspectives

  •  Tatiana Arivelo    
  •  Yuh-Lang Lin    


Variability of and generation mechanisms for Madagascar rainfall are studied by conducting climatological, synoptic and mesoscale analyses. It is found the rainfall variability is highly sensitive to seasons with high variability in summer (Nov-Apr). The rainfall in summer is controlled by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and orographic rainfall associated with tropical cyclones (TCs), while the rainfall in winter (May-Oct) is controlled by trade winds and local orographic rainfall along the eastern coast. Synoptic analysis reveals that major climate variations in summer are associated with ITCZ position, which is closely related to TC genesis locations and quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO). Linkages between El-Niño Southern Oscillation Index (ENSO) and Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) are identified as the cause of inconsistent dry or wet summers. Mesoscale analysis depicts the importance of the orographic effects on prevailing wind, which are controlled by the orography in both seasons. In winter, the prevailing trade winds over the Southwest Indian Ocean are from the east and are split to the north and south when it impinges on Malagasy Mountains. On the other hand, in summer the prevailing easterlies are weaker leading to the production of lee vortices, in addition to the flow splitting upstream of the mountain. Thus, the flow is classified into two regimes: (a) flow-over regime with no lee vortices under high Froude number (Fr=1.2-1.8) flow, and (b) flow-around regime with lee vortices under low Fr (=0.88-1.16) flow. A case study of TC Domoina (1984) indicates that the long-lasting heavy rainfall was induced by the strong orographic blocking of Madagascar. The shorter-term (e.g., 2 days) heavy orographic precipitation is characterized by large VHÑh which is composed by two common ingredients, namely a strong low-level wind normal to the mountain (VH) and a steep mountain slope (∇h).

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