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On the relationship of coastal tropical rainfall and the large-scale atmosphere


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      Rainfall in coastal areas of the tropics is often shaped by the presence of circulations directly associated with the topography, such as land-sea and/or mountain-valley breezes. In many regions the coastally-affected rainfall consitutes more than half of the overall rainfall received. Weather and climate models with parametrized convection produce large errors in rainfall in tropical coastal regions, most commonly underestimating rainfall over land and overestimating it over the ocean. Building on an algorithm to objectively identify rainfall that is associated with land-sea interaction we investigate whether the relationship between rainfall in coastal regions and the large-scale atmosphere differs from that over the open ocean or over inland areas. We combine 3-hourly satellite estimates of rainfall with estimates of the large-scale atmospheric state from reanalyses. We find that when grouped by rainfall intensity, medium-intensity coastal rainfall in the tropics occurs in more stable conditions and drier atmospheres and is associated with less large-scale convergence than its open-ocean and inland counterparts. Overall, the dependence of the amount of rainfall on the large-scale state is significantly weaker when the rainfall is coastally influenced. Our findings indicate that the representation of convection in weather and climate models must cater for the special character of the large-to-small scale relationship near coasts rather than rely on a common set of rules across the globe.

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      76E06, 76E15, 76E20
      Submitted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters

      Atmospheric, Oceanic and Environmental physics


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