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Boundary Layer Dynamics and Cross-Equatorial Hadley Circulation

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  • 1 Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

The behavior of the Hadley circulation is analyzed in the context of an idealized axisymmetric atmosphere. It is argued that the cross-equatorial Hadley circulation exhibits two different regimes depending on the depth of the planetary boundary layer and the sea surface temperature gradient in the equatorial regions. The first regime corresponds to a classic direct circulation from the summer to winter hemisphere. The second regime differs in that the return flow rises above the boundary layer in the winter hemisphere and crosses the equator within the free troposphere. This equatorial jump is associated with a secondary maximum in precipitation on the winter side of the equator.

The transition between these two regimes can be understood through the dynamical constraints on the low- level flow. Strong virtual temperature gradients are necessary for the return flow to cross the equator within the planetary boundary layer. However, the mass transport driven by such a temperature gradient is highly sensitive to the thickness of the boundary layer. For a weak temperature gradient or a shallow boundary layer, the return flow is prevented from crossing the equator within the the boundary layer and, instead, must do so in the free troposphere. These dynamical constraints act equally in a dry and a moist atmosphere. However, a comparison between dry and moist simulations shows that the equatorial jump is much deeper in a moist atmosphere. This is interpreted as resulting from the feedbacks between the large-scale flow and moist convection, which results in establishing a very weak gross moist stability for the equatorial jump.

Corresponding author address: O. Pauluis, NOAA/GFDL, Princeton Forrestal Campus, U.S. Rte. 1, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542- 0308. Email: pauluis@princeton.edu

Abstract

The behavior of the Hadley circulation is analyzed in the context of an idealized axisymmetric atmosphere. It is argued that the cross-equatorial Hadley circulation exhibits two different regimes depending on the depth of the planetary boundary layer and the sea surface temperature gradient in the equatorial regions. The first regime corresponds to a classic direct circulation from the summer to winter hemisphere. The second regime differs in that the return flow rises above the boundary layer in the winter hemisphere and crosses the equator within the free troposphere. This equatorial jump is associated with a secondary maximum in precipitation on the winter side of the equator.

The transition between these two regimes can be understood through the dynamical constraints on the low- level flow. Strong virtual temperature gradients are necessary for the return flow to cross the equator within the planetary boundary layer. However, the mass transport driven by such a temperature gradient is highly sensitive to the thickness of the boundary layer. For a weak temperature gradient or a shallow boundary layer, the return flow is prevented from crossing the equator within the the boundary layer and, instead, must do so in the free troposphere. These dynamical constraints act equally in a dry and a moist atmosphere. However, a comparison between dry and moist simulations shows that the equatorial jump is much deeper in a moist atmosphere. This is interpreted as resulting from the feedbacks between the large-scale flow and moist convection, which results in establishing a very weak gross moist stability for the equatorial jump.

Corresponding author address: O. Pauluis, NOAA/GFDL, Princeton Forrestal Campus, U.S. Rte. 1, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542- 0308. Email: pauluis@princeton.edu

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