A Climatology of Central American Gyres
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A Climatology of Central American Gyres

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  • Journal Title:
    Monthly Weather Review
  • Description:
    Central American gyres (CAGs) are large, closed, cyclonic circulations that occur during the rainy season (May–November), which can yield exceptional rainfall leading to catastrophic flooding and large societal impacts. A reanalysis-based climatology of CAGs is developed from an algorithm that distinguishes CAG cases from other systems. This algorithm identified CAG cases based on circulation intensity, a broad radius of maximum winds, and the existence of closed, Earth-relative, cyclonic flow. Based on these criteria, 47 CAG cases were identified from 1980 to 2010, featuring a bimodal distribution of cases with maxima in May–June and September–November.

    CAG cases are composited into two categories based on their upper-tropospheric PV structure: nonbaroclinic CAGs are more common (N = 42) and characterized by an upper-tropospheric anticyclone, while baroclinic CAGs are less common (N = 5) and characterized by an upper-tropospheric trough. Whereas a nonbaroclinic CAG has anomalous moisture and precipitation surrounding the center, a baroclinic CAG has anomalous moisture and precipitation concentrated east of the center, with these structural differences attributed to their upper-tropospheric PV structure. Both nonbaroclinic and baroclinic CAGs are preceded by anomalous westerly lower-tropospheric flow in the eastern Pacific before their development, which is linked to a climatological reduction in easterly trade winds and is coincident with MJO phases 1, 2, and 8. Extreme precipitation is observed over multiple days in all available CAG cases, most commonly along the Central American coastline and on average over a large fractional area (25%) within 10° of their center.

  • Source:
    Monthly Weather Review, 145(5), 1983-2000
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