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Planetary-Wave-Induced Transport in the Stratosphere

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  • 1 Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Abstract

In the stratosphere, chemical tracers are drawn systematically from the equator to the pole. This observed Brewer–Dobson circulation is driven by wave drag, which in the stratosphere arises mainly from the breaking and dissipation of planetary-scale Rossby waves. While the overall sense of the circulation follows from fundamental physical principles, a quantitative theoretical understanding of the connection between wave drag and Lagrangian transport is limited to linear, small-amplitude waves. However, planetary waves in the stratosphere generally grow to a large amplitude and break in a strongly nonlinear fashion. This paper addresses the connection between stratospheric wave drag and Lagrangian transport in the presence of strong nonlinearity, using a mechanistic three-dimensional primitive equations model together with offline particle advection. Attention is deliberately focused on a weak forcing regime, such that sudden warmings do not occur and a quasi-steady state is reached, in order to examine this question in the cleanest possible context.

Wave drag is directly linked to the transformed Eulerian mean (TEM) circulation, which is often used as a surrogate for mean Lagrangian motion. The results show that the correspondence between the TEM and mean Lagrangian velocities is quantitatively excellent in regions of linear, nonbreaking waves (i.e., outside the surf zone), where streamlines are not closed. Within the surf zone, where streamlines are closed and meridional particle displacements are large, the agreement between the vertical components of the two velocity fields is still remarkably good, especially wherever particle paths are coherent so that diabatic dispersion is minimized. However, in this region the meridional mean Lagrangian velocity bears little relation to the meridional TEM velocity, and reflects more the kinematics of mixing within and across the edges of the surf zone. The results from the mechanistic model are compared with those from the Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model to test the robustness of the conclusions.

Current affiliation: NorthWest Research Associates, Bellevue, Washington

Corresponding author address: T. G. Shepherd, Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, M5S 1A7, Canada. Email: tgs@atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca

Abstract

In the stratosphere, chemical tracers are drawn systematically from the equator to the pole. This observed Brewer–Dobson circulation is driven by wave drag, which in the stratosphere arises mainly from the breaking and dissipation of planetary-scale Rossby waves. While the overall sense of the circulation follows from fundamental physical principles, a quantitative theoretical understanding of the connection between wave drag and Lagrangian transport is limited to linear, small-amplitude waves. However, planetary waves in the stratosphere generally grow to a large amplitude and break in a strongly nonlinear fashion. This paper addresses the connection between stratospheric wave drag and Lagrangian transport in the presence of strong nonlinearity, using a mechanistic three-dimensional primitive equations model together with offline particle advection. Attention is deliberately focused on a weak forcing regime, such that sudden warmings do not occur and a quasi-steady state is reached, in order to examine this question in the cleanest possible context.

Wave drag is directly linked to the transformed Eulerian mean (TEM) circulation, which is often used as a surrogate for mean Lagrangian motion. The results show that the correspondence between the TEM and mean Lagrangian velocities is quantitatively excellent in regions of linear, nonbreaking waves (i.e., outside the surf zone), where streamlines are not closed. Within the surf zone, where streamlines are closed and meridional particle displacements are large, the agreement between the vertical components of the two velocity fields is still remarkably good, especially wherever particle paths are coherent so that diabatic dispersion is minimized. However, in this region the meridional mean Lagrangian velocity bears little relation to the meridional TEM velocity, and reflects more the kinematics of mixing within and across the edges of the surf zone. The results from the mechanistic model are compared with those from the Canadian Middle Atmosphere Model to test the robustness of the conclusions.

Current affiliation: NorthWest Research Associates, Bellevue, Washington

Corresponding author address: T. G. Shepherd, Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, M5S 1A7, Canada. Email: tgs@atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca

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