Dynamics of the Southern Hemisphere Spiral Jet

Lindsey N. Williams Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Sukyoung Lee Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Seok-Woo Son Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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Abstract

The formation of the Southern Hemisphere spiral jet is investigated using observations over a 40-yr period. It is found that between late March and early April, the upper-tropospheric westerly jet in the Southern Hemisphere undergoes a transition from an annular structure in midlatitudes to a spiral structure that extends from 20° to 55°S. The transition to the spiral structure is initiated by the formation of a subtropical jet, localized in the central Pacific. The inception of the jet spiral is completed with the formation of a band of northwest-to-southeast-oriented zonal winds, which is connected to both the subtropical and the polar-front jets. This band, referred to as the tilting branch, arises from momentum flux convergence associated with breaking Rossby waves. As such, the direction of the wave breaking determines the direction of the jet spiral; an anticyclonic wave breaking, associated with equatorward wave dispersion, establishes a jet spiral that turns cyclonically toward the pole.

This formation mechanism of the jet spiral is supported by a set of calculations with an idealized numerical model. These model calculations indicate that the jet spiral is obtained only if the model’s localized subtropical jet is sufficiently strong, and if the latitude of the polar-front jet is sufficiently higher than that of the subtropical jet. The calculations also indicate that the spiral jet is a transient solution, implying that the lack of spiral structure during the austral winter may be caused by the zonal wind field reaching a new statistically steady state.

Corresponding author address: Sukyoung Lee, 503 Walker Building, Dept. of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16902. Email: sl@meteo.psu.edu

Abstract

The formation of the Southern Hemisphere spiral jet is investigated using observations over a 40-yr period. It is found that between late March and early April, the upper-tropospheric westerly jet in the Southern Hemisphere undergoes a transition from an annular structure in midlatitudes to a spiral structure that extends from 20° to 55°S. The transition to the spiral structure is initiated by the formation of a subtropical jet, localized in the central Pacific. The inception of the jet spiral is completed with the formation of a band of northwest-to-southeast-oriented zonal winds, which is connected to both the subtropical and the polar-front jets. This band, referred to as the tilting branch, arises from momentum flux convergence associated with breaking Rossby waves. As such, the direction of the wave breaking determines the direction of the jet spiral; an anticyclonic wave breaking, associated with equatorward wave dispersion, establishes a jet spiral that turns cyclonically toward the pole.

This formation mechanism of the jet spiral is supported by a set of calculations with an idealized numerical model. These model calculations indicate that the jet spiral is obtained only if the model’s localized subtropical jet is sufficiently strong, and if the latitude of the polar-front jet is sufficiently higher than that of the subtropical jet. The calculations also indicate that the spiral jet is a transient solution, implying that the lack of spiral structure during the austral winter may be caused by the zonal wind field reaching a new statistically steady state.

Corresponding author address: Sukyoung Lee, 503 Walker Building, Dept. of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16902. Email: sl@meteo.psu.edu

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