The Atmospheric Circulation Around Antarctica: Linear Stability and Finite-Amplitude Interactions with Migrating Cyclones

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  • 1 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Program, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540
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Abstract

Available observations of the atmospheric circulation over the coast of Antarctica indicate the presence of a core of westerly winds in the upper troposphere. The linear stability of these westerlies is studied by using a semi-spectral numerical model with which the linearized, shallow, anelastic hydrostatic equations are integrated. The influence on the stability of the westerlies of both the slope and amplitude of the topography representative of East Antarctica is analyzed. The results obtained for several basic flows taken as idealizations of possible mean states indicate that although the topography exerts a somewhat stabilizing influence, the doubling times for the unstable perturbations are less than two days in all cases.

It is shown by using a three-level primitive equation model that the combined action of finite-amplitude baroclinic waves migrating from middle latitudes, the topography of Antarctica, and the meridional temperature gradients around the continent can generate westerlies with jetlike structure over the topographic slopes. Furthermore, none of those mechanisms acting separately can generate such a jet.

The results suggest that the region around Antarctica, far from being a place where all baroclinic processes are damped out by topographic slopes, is baroclinically very active with a complicated energy cascade, and that the distinctive topographic characteristics of Antarctica are fundamental to the permanence of low temperatures in its overlying atmosphere.

Abstract

Available observations of the atmospheric circulation over the coast of Antarctica indicate the presence of a core of westerly winds in the upper troposphere. The linear stability of these westerlies is studied by using a semi-spectral numerical model with which the linearized, shallow, anelastic hydrostatic equations are integrated. The influence on the stability of the westerlies of both the slope and amplitude of the topography representative of East Antarctica is analyzed. The results obtained for several basic flows taken as idealizations of possible mean states indicate that although the topography exerts a somewhat stabilizing influence, the doubling times for the unstable perturbations are less than two days in all cases.

It is shown by using a three-level primitive equation model that the combined action of finite-amplitude baroclinic waves migrating from middle latitudes, the topography of Antarctica, and the meridional temperature gradients around the continent can generate westerlies with jetlike structure over the topographic slopes. Furthermore, none of those mechanisms acting separately can generate such a jet.

The results suggest that the region around Antarctica, far from being a place where all baroclinic processes are damped out by topographic slopes, is baroclinically very active with a complicated energy cascade, and that the distinctive topographic characteristics of Antarctica are fundamental to the permanence of low temperatures in its overlying atmosphere.

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