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ENSO shifts and their link to Southern Africa surface air temperature in summer

Abstract

ENSO has been known to influence the trends of summer warming over Southern Africa. In this work, we used observational and reanalysis data to analyze the relationship between ENSO and maximum surface air temperature (SATmax) trends during the three epochs created by the ENSO phase shifts around 1977 and 1997 for the period 1960 to 2014. We observed that while ENSO and cloud cover remains the dominant factor controlling SATmax variability, the first two epochs had the predominant La Niña (El Niño)-like events connected to robust positive (negative) trends in cloud fraction. However, this established relationship reversed in the post-1997 La Niña-like dominated epoch which coincided with a falling cloud cover trend. It is established that this deviation from the previously established link within the previous epochs could be due to the post-1998 era in which SATmin was suppressed while SATmax was enhanced. The resulting increase in diurnal temperature range (DTR) could have discouraged the formation of low-level clouds which have relatively more extensive areal coverage and hence allowing more solar energy to reach the surface to boost daytime SATmax. It is noted that these relationships are more pronounced from December to March.

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Acknowledgements

Both Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) Geography Department of Free State University and Bindura University of Science Geography Departments are thanked for providing resources to enable the accomplishment of this research. The facilities provided by ICTP to do the research are highly appreciated. The valuable comments from the two reviewers considerably improved the manuscript. Climate Explorer is acknowledged for providing the platform to do the analysis and graphics.

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Correspondence to D. Manatsa.

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Manatsa, D., Mukwada, G. & Makaba, L. ENSO shifts and their link to Southern Africa surface air temperature in summer. Theor Appl Climatol 132, 727–738 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-017-2112-y

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