Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Frank Muller-Karger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Don Chambers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Enfield, Ph.D.


wind divergence, Mann-Kendall trend test, time series, CARIACO ocean time series


The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is a feature that results from the ocean-atmosphere interactions in the tropics around the world. The ITCZ is characterized by surface wind convergence, tall storm clouds, and it forms a belt of high time-averaged precipitation around the globe. The ITCZ undergoes seasonal migrations between 5°S and 15°N roughly following the subsolar point on Earth with the seasons, with a mean annual position located slightly above the Equator, between 2° and 5°N.

This study tested the hypothesis that there was a northward shift in the median position of the ITCZ in the first decade of the 2000’s relative to the 1900’s. This hypothesis has been posed in the literature given a weakening in the intensity of the Trade Winds observed in the southern Caribbean Sea during the first decade of the 2000’s, with concomitant ecological impacts due to weakening in coastal wind-driven upwelling. The hypothesis was tested by analyzing variations in the monthly latitudinal position of the ITCZ over the Atlantic Ocean relative to the median position computed for the period 1987-2011. The position of the ITCZ was derived from satellite-derived ocean surface wind measurements collected from 1987 to 2011. A Mann-Kendall analysis and a Monte Carlo simulation were used to test for trends in the median cross-basin latitudinal position of the ITCZ. The study included an analysis of regional changes across the tropical central Atlantic (50°W to 15°W), the Western Atlantic (50°W to 30°W), and the Eastern Atlantic (30°W to 15°W) within the tropics. The results show a slight southward trend in the median position of the ITCZ over the central Atlantic and also in the Eastern Atlantic in the first decade of the 2000’s relative to the 1990’s. While this trend is barely significant, it is likely simply due to interannual variation in the average annual position of the ITCZ.

The data were also examined for the timing and persistence of a double ITCZ in the Atlantic. The double ITCZ over the Atlantic appeared every year in February or March, with the largest separation between the northern and southern branches of the ITCZ observed in June and July.

The possible effects of changes in the average latitudinal position of the ITCZ on the upwelling in the Cariaco Basin (southeastern Caribbean Sea off Venezuela) were also examined. Anomalies of the median of the latitudinal position of the ITCZ in the Atlantic were compared with anomalies of in-situ temperature collected during the 1990’s and the first decade of the 2000’s by the CARIACO Ocean Time-Series program and with anomalies of satellite SST (from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer satellite; AVHRR) from 1995 to 2016. Correlation analysis were performed between anomalies of water temperatures at various depths and anomalies of satellite SST with anomalies of the monthly mean ITCZ position with lags up to 3 months for the time series, and also just for the Cariaco basin upwelling months (December-April).

For the whole Cariaco time series there were no significant correlations between the anomalies of the ITCZ position and anomalies in subsurface temperatures in the Cariaco Basin. However, during the upwelling period, the central Atlantic and Western Atlantic ITCZ position anomalies were directly correlated with Cariaco Basin temperature anomalies with no-lag (r = 0.20), and the central and Eastern Atlantic ITCZ position anomalies were inversely correlated with Cariaco Basin temperatures (r ~ -0.22 to -0.28) with ITCZ leading Cariaco temperatures by 3 months. However, these correlations were low, indicating that other factors than the position of ITCZ latitudinal position play bigger role on the Cariaco basin upwelling variability.

Interannual variability in oceanographic and meteorological characteristics of the Atlantic Ocean are expected as a result of large-scale changes in other regions of the world, including due to changes such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Six oceanic-atmospheric variables are used to monitor ENSO over the tropical Pacific, while the AMO is determined by monitoring SST over the Atlantic. Correlations with lags of up to ± 6 months were conducted with those climate indices and the anomalies of the median monthly latitudinal position of the ITCZ. Significant direct correlations with ENSO (Multivariate ENSO Index) were seen in the Atlantic and Western Atlantic (r = 0.15), with ENSO leading the position of the ITCZ anomalies by 3 months. This implies that within three months after an El Niño event (warm ENSO anomaly in the Pacific) the ITCZ over the mid-Atlantic and Western Atlantic Ocean tends to shift to a more northerly position. The AMO also had a direct influence on the anomalies of the ITCZ position (r = 0.13) in the Central and the Western Atlantic, with the AMO leading ITCZ anomalies by 1 month (i.e. a warming of the North Atlantic led to a northward shift in the ITCZ one month later). Correlations between AMO and the ITCZ anomalies in the Eastern Atlantic were also direct but with no lag. Although significant, these correlations were low.

An inverse correlation (~ -0.35) was found between ENSO and anomalies of water temperature of the Cariaco Basin. ENSO lagged ocean temperature anomalies by 3 to 4 months for both the whole Cariaco time series and for the upwelling months of CARIACO data. Correlations with AMO were direct (~ 0.4); for the whole time series AMO led Cariaco temperature anomalies by 3 months, but for the upwelling months AMO lagged Cariaco temperature anomalies by one month.