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Lower-Tropospheric Heat Transport in the Pacific Storm Track

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  • 1 Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
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Abstract

The relative effects of dynamics and surface thermal interactions in determining the heat flux and temperature fluctuations within the lower-tropospheric portion of the Pacific storm track are quantified using the probability distribution functions (PDFs) of the temperature fluctuations and heat flux, Lagrangian passive tracer calculations, and a simple stochastic model. It is found that temperature fluctuations damp to the underlying oceanic temperature with a timescale of approximately 1 day but that dynamics still play the predominant role in determining atmospheric heat flux, due to eddy mixing lengths within the storm track of ≤ 5° latitude. These results are confirmed by the favorable comparison of the PDFs of the model-generated and observed temperature fluctuations and heat flux.

The implications of strong thermal damping in the lower troposphere are discussed and speculations are made regarding the effect of such damping upon baroclinic eddy life cycles and the general circulation.

* Current affiliation: Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique, Université de Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kyle L. Swanson, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Université de Pierre et Marie Curie, Tour 15, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France.

Email: swanson@lmd.ens.fr

Abstract

The relative effects of dynamics and surface thermal interactions in determining the heat flux and temperature fluctuations within the lower-tropospheric portion of the Pacific storm track are quantified using the probability distribution functions (PDFs) of the temperature fluctuations and heat flux, Lagrangian passive tracer calculations, and a simple stochastic model. It is found that temperature fluctuations damp to the underlying oceanic temperature with a timescale of approximately 1 day but that dynamics still play the predominant role in determining atmospheric heat flux, due to eddy mixing lengths within the storm track of ≤ 5° latitude. These results are confirmed by the favorable comparison of the PDFs of the model-generated and observed temperature fluctuations and heat flux.

The implications of strong thermal damping in the lower troposphere are discussed and speculations are made regarding the effect of such damping upon baroclinic eddy life cycles and the general circulation.

* Current affiliation: Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique, Université de Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Kyle L. Swanson, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Université de Pierre et Marie Curie, Tour 15, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France.

Email: swanson@lmd.ens.fr

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