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A Seasonal Climatology of Rossby Wave Breaking in the 320–2000-K Layer

Matthew H. HitchmanDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

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Amihan S. HuesmannDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

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Abstract

Differential advection in Rossby waves can lead to potential vorticity (PV; P) contours on isentropic surfaces folding over in latitude (Py < 0) in a process called Rossby wave breaking (RWB). Exploring the properties of RWB may shed light on underlying dynamics and enable quantification of irreversible transport. A seasonal climatology of Py and RWB statistics is presented for the 320–850-K layer using NCEP reanalysis data during 1979–2005 and for the 320–2000-K layer using the Met Office (UKMO) data during 1991–2003. A primary goal is to depict the spatial extent and seasonality of RWB maxima. This analysis shows seven distinct RWB regimes: poleward and equatorward of the subtropical westerly jets, poleward and equatorward of the stratospheric polar night jets, flanking the equator in the stratosphere and mesosphere, equatorward of subtropical monsoon anticyclones, and the summertime polar stratosphere.

A striking PV gradient maximum exists at the equator throughout the layer 360–2000 K, flanked by subtropical RWB maxima, integral components of the Lagrangian cross-equatorial flow. Strong RWB occurs in the polar night vortex where β is small. Over the summer pole, strong poleward RWB associated with synoptic waves decays into small amplitude motions in the upper stratosphere, where heating gradients cause Py < 0. The seven spatial regimes are linked to three different dynamical causes of reversals: wave breaking associated with westerly jets, a combined barotropic/inertial instability in cross-equatorial flow, and on the periphery of monsoon anticyclones.

Corresponding author address: M. H. Hitchman, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1225 W. Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. Email: matt@aos.wisc.edu

Abstract

Differential advection in Rossby waves can lead to potential vorticity (PV; P) contours on isentropic surfaces folding over in latitude (Py < 0) in a process called Rossby wave breaking (RWB). Exploring the properties of RWB may shed light on underlying dynamics and enable quantification of irreversible transport. A seasonal climatology of Py and RWB statistics is presented for the 320–850-K layer using NCEP reanalysis data during 1979–2005 and for the 320–2000-K layer using the Met Office (UKMO) data during 1991–2003. A primary goal is to depict the spatial extent and seasonality of RWB maxima. This analysis shows seven distinct RWB regimes: poleward and equatorward of the subtropical westerly jets, poleward and equatorward of the stratospheric polar night jets, flanking the equator in the stratosphere and mesosphere, equatorward of subtropical monsoon anticyclones, and the summertime polar stratosphere.

A striking PV gradient maximum exists at the equator throughout the layer 360–2000 K, flanked by subtropical RWB maxima, integral components of the Lagrangian cross-equatorial flow. Strong RWB occurs in the polar night vortex where β is small. Over the summer pole, strong poleward RWB associated with synoptic waves decays into small amplitude motions in the upper stratosphere, where heating gradients cause Py < 0. The seven spatial regimes are linked to three different dynamical causes of reversals: wave breaking associated with westerly jets, a combined barotropic/inertial instability in cross-equatorial flow, and on the periphery of monsoon anticyclones.

Corresponding author address: M. H. Hitchman, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1225 W. Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. Email: matt@aos.wisc.edu

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