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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The ITCZ in the Central and Eastern Pacific on Synoptic Time Scales

  • Author(s): Wang, Chia-chi
  • Magnusdottir, Gudrun
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

The ITCZ in the central and eastern Pacific on synoptic time scales is highly dynamic. The active season extends roughly from May through October. During the active season, the ITCZ continuously breaks down and re-forms, and produces a series of tropical disturbances. The life span of the ITCZ varies from several days to 3 weeks.

Sixty-five cases of ITCZ breakdown have been visually identified over five active seasons (1999–2003) in three independent datasets. ITCZ breakdown can be triggered by two mechanisms: 1) interaction with westward-propagating disturbances (WPDs) and 2) the vortex rollup (VR) mechanism. Results show that the frequency of occurrence of ITCZ breakdown from these two mechanisms is the same. The VR mechanism may have been neglected because the produced disturbances are rather weak and they may dissipate quickly. The ITCZ shows a strong tendency to re-form within 1–2 days in the same location. The ITCZ may break down via the VR mechanism without any other support, and thus it may continuously generate numerous tropical disturbances throughout the season.

There are two main differences between the two mechanisms: 1) The WPDs-induced ITCZ breakdown tends to create one or two vortices that may be of tropical depression strength. The VR-induced ITCZ breakdown generates several nearly equal-sized weak disturbances. 2) The WPDs tend to disturb the ITCZ in the eastern Pacific only. Disturbances generally move along the Mexican coast after shedding off from the ITCZ and do not further disturb the ITCZ in the central Pacific. Therefore, the VR mechanism is observed more clearly and is the dominating mechanism for ITCZ breakdown in the central Pacific.

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