Meteor. Atmos. Phys., 47, 27-36

Transient Convective Waves in the Tropical SW Indian Ocean

Oceanography Department, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa

CIRA, Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado

Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

South African Weather Bureau, Pretoria, South Africa

(Received 1 July 1991)


Wave-organized convective features in the southwest Indian Ocean are described using Hovmoller composites of satellite imagery, OLR anomalies and ECMWF precipitable water departures during the southern summer. Westward movement of large convective elements is noted in the 10-20S latitude band in about half of the years between 1970 and 1984. A study of 47 convective systems from satellite imagery establishes the climatological features, including zonal propagation speeds for maritime systems in the range -2 to - 4m s-1, wavelengths of 25-35 longitude (3,000 km), lifespans of 10-20 days and convective areas of 7-10 longitude (800 km). Transient convective waves over the tropical SW Indian Ocean are slower and more diverse than their northern hemisphere counterparts. Interannual tendencies in the frequency and mode are studied. Wet summers over SE Africa correspond with an increased frequency of westward moving convective systems, whereas in dry summers convective systems tend to be quasi-stationary. INSAT data composites provide additional insight into the convective structure and show that tropical waves penetrated into southern Africa in February 1988. A more quantitative assessment of transient convective waves is provided by Hovmoller composites of OLR anomalies and precipitable water departures. Both display westward moving systems in 1976 and 1984 and highlight the wide variety and mixed mode character of convective waves. A case study is analyzed which illustrates the deepening of a moist, unstable layer coincident with the westward passage of a convective wave.

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