Climate Dynamics

, Volume 50, Issue 11–12, pp 4335–4346 | Cite as

Covariability of Central America/Mexico winter precipitation and tropical sea surface temperatures

  • Yutong Pan
  • Ning Zeng
  • Annarita Mariotti
  • Hui Wang
  • Arun Kumar
  • René Lobato Sánchez
  • Bhaskar Jha


In this study, the relationships between Central America/Mexico (CAM) winter precipitation and tropical Pacific/Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are examined based on 68-year (1948–2015) observations and 59-year (1957–2015) atmospheric model simulations forced by observed SSTs. The covariability of the winter precipitation and SSTs is quantified using the singular value decomposition (SVD) method with observational data. The first SVD mode relates out-of-phase precipitation anomalies in northern Mexico and Central America to the tropical Pacific El Niño/La Niña SST variation. The second mode links a decreasing trend in the precipitation over Central America to the warming of SSTs in the tropical Atlantic, as well as in the tropical western Pacific and the tropical Indian Ocean. The first mode represents 67% of the covariance between the two fields, indicating a strong association between CAM winter precipitation and El Niño/La Niña, whereas the second mode represents 20% of the covariance. The two modes account for 32% of CAM winter precipitation variance, of which, 17% is related to the El Niño/La Niña SST and 15% is related to the SST warming trend. The atmospheric circulation patterns, including 500-hPa height and low-level winds obtained by linear regressions against the SVD SST time series, are dynamically consistent with the precipitation anomaly patterns. The model simulations driven by the observed SSTs suggest that these precipitation anomalies are likely a response to tropical SST forcing. It is also shown that there is significant potential predictability of CAM winter precipitation given tropical SST information.


Precipitation Sea surface temperature Central America Mexico 



The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their insightful and constructive comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yutong Pan
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
  • Ning Zeng
    • 1
  • Annarita Mariotti
    • 2
  • Hui Wang
    • 3
  • Arun Kumar
    • 3
  • René Lobato Sánchez
    • 4
  • Bhaskar Jha
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic ScienceUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.NOAA/OAR/Climate Program OfficeSilver SpringUSA
  3. 3.NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Climate Prediction CenterCollege ParkUSA
  4. 4.The Mexican Institute of Water TechnologyJiutepecMexico
  5. 5.InnovimGreenbeltUSA

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