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Synoptic Responses to Mountain Gravity Waves Encountering Directional Critical Levels

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  • 1 Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique du CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France
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Abstract

A heuristic model is used to study the synoptic response to mountain gravity waves (GWs) absorbed at directional critical levels. The model is a semigeostrophic version of the Eady model for baroclinic instability adapted by Smith to study lee cyclogenesis. The GWs exert a force on the large-scale flow where they encounter directional critical levels. This force is taken into account in the model herein and produces potential vorticity (PV) anomalies in the midtroposphere.

First, the authors consider the case of an idealized mountain range such that the orographic variance is well separated between small- and large-scale contributions. In the absence of tropopause, the PV produced by the GW force has a surface impact that is significant compared to the surface response due to the large scales. For a cold front, the GW force produces a trough over the mountain and a larger-amplitude ridge immediately downstream. It opposes somehow to the response due to the large scales of the mountain range, which is anticyclonic aloft and cyclonic downstream. For a warm front, the GW force produces a ridge over the mountain and a trough downstream; hence it reinforces the response due to the large scales.

Second, the robustness of the previous results is verified by a series of sensitivity tests. The authors change the specifications of the mountain range and of the background flow. They also repeat some experiments by including baroclinic instabilities, or by using the quasigeostrophic approximation. Finally, they consider the case of a small-scale orographic spectrum representative of the Alps.

The significance of the results is discussed in the context of GW parameterization in the general circulation models. The results may also help to interpret the complex PV structures occurring when mountain gravity waves break in a baroclinic environment.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Armel Martin, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique du CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24, rue Lhomond, 75235 Paris CEDEX 05, France. Email: martin@lmd.ens.fr

Abstract

A heuristic model is used to study the synoptic response to mountain gravity waves (GWs) absorbed at directional critical levels. The model is a semigeostrophic version of the Eady model for baroclinic instability adapted by Smith to study lee cyclogenesis. The GWs exert a force on the large-scale flow where they encounter directional critical levels. This force is taken into account in the model herein and produces potential vorticity (PV) anomalies in the midtroposphere.

First, the authors consider the case of an idealized mountain range such that the orographic variance is well separated between small- and large-scale contributions. In the absence of tropopause, the PV produced by the GW force has a surface impact that is significant compared to the surface response due to the large scales. For a cold front, the GW force produces a trough over the mountain and a larger-amplitude ridge immediately downstream. It opposes somehow to the response due to the large scales of the mountain range, which is anticyclonic aloft and cyclonic downstream. For a warm front, the GW force produces a ridge over the mountain and a trough downstream; hence it reinforces the response due to the large scales.

Second, the robustness of the previous results is verified by a series of sensitivity tests. The authors change the specifications of the mountain range and of the background flow. They also repeat some experiments by including baroclinic instabilities, or by using the quasigeostrophic approximation. Finally, they consider the case of a small-scale orographic spectrum representative of the Alps.

The significance of the results is discussed in the context of GW parameterization in the general circulation models. The results may also help to interpret the complex PV structures occurring when mountain gravity waves break in a baroclinic environment.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Armel Martin, Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique du CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24, rue Lhomond, 75235 Paris CEDEX 05, France. Email: martin@lmd.ens.fr

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