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Coherent Structures in a Baroclinic Atmosphere. Part II: A Truncated Model Approach

Piero MalguzziDepartment of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139

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Paola Malanotte RizzoliDepartment of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139

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Abstract

Many recent studies have been devoted to atmospheric Patterns that persist beyond the synoptic time scale, such as those known as blocking events. In the present paper we explore the possibility that blocking patterns can be modeled with a local approach. We propose a truncated model that is a time-dependent, highly nonlinear extension of our earlier analytical theory. In this theory, stationary coherent structures were found as asymptotic solutions of the inviscid, quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity equation with a mean zonal wind with vertical and horizontal shear, in the limit of weak dispersion and weak nonlinearity. The truncated model is obtained by projecting the potential vorticity equation onto the orthonormal basis defined by the lowest order problem of the asymptotic theory and then suitably truncating the number of modes. The time-evolution of the model is investigated numerically with different truncations.

The steady solutions were antisymmetric dipoles, with the anticyclone north of the cyclone; they have an equivalent barotropic vertical structure and are meridionally as well as zonally trapped. We suggest that this solution could model the persistent patterns associated with blocking events that satisfy Rex's definition. An extensive series of numerical experiments is carried out to investigate the persistence of the steady solutions and their stability to different superimposed perturbations. The result is that, in an environment as turbulent as the real atmosphere, a typical estimate of the robustness (predictability) of the solution is of the order of 10 to 12 days. Such persistence is consistent with observations of blocking patterns.

Abstract

Many recent studies have been devoted to atmospheric Patterns that persist beyond the synoptic time scale, such as those known as blocking events. In the present paper we explore the possibility that blocking patterns can be modeled with a local approach. We propose a truncated model that is a time-dependent, highly nonlinear extension of our earlier analytical theory. In this theory, stationary coherent structures were found as asymptotic solutions of the inviscid, quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity equation with a mean zonal wind with vertical and horizontal shear, in the limit of weak dispersion and weak nonlinearity. The truncated model is obtained by projecting the potential vorticity equation onto the orthonormal basis defined by the lowest order problem of the asymptotic theory and then suitably truncating the number of modes. The time-evolution of the model is investigated numerically with different truncations.

The steady solutions were antisymmetric dipoles, with the anticyclone north of the cyclone; they have an equivalent barotropic vertical structure and are meridionally as well as zonally trapped. We suggest that this solution could model the persistent patterns associated with blocking events that satisfy Rex's definition. An extensive series of numerical experiments is carried out to investigate the persistence of the steady solutions and their stability to different superimposed perturbations. The result is that, in an environment as turbulent as the real atmosphere, a typical estimate of the robustness (predictability) of the solution is of the order of 10 to 12 days. Such persistence is consistent with observations of blocking patterns.

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