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Interpreting the Opposition between Two Block-Onset Forcing Mechanisms

Li DongDepartment of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

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Stephen J. ColucciDepartment of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

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Abstract

The opposition between two block-onset forcing mechanisms, previously identified in midtropospheric analyses over the Southern Hemisphere midlatitudes, is analytically interpreted with an idealized model. These mechanisms are the interaction (Finter) between deformation and potential vorticity and the advection (Fadv) of meridionally varying potential vorticity. Weather systems of concern, primarily consisting of planetary- and synoptic-scale waves, mostly fall into two regimes of zonal and meridional wavenumber space in which the opposition between the two block-onset forcing mechanisms is analytically derived. A synoptic interpretation of this opposition is schematically presented within the framework of barotropic dynamics. It is found that whether blocking occurs in diffluent or confluent flow depends upon the critical wavelength associated with the geostrophic flow. Blocking tends to take place in the diffluent flow of long waves in which Finter dominates over Fadv. In addition, blocking also tends to occur in the confluent flow of relative short waves in which Fadv prevails over Finter. An investigation of Rossby wave phase speeds in one diagnosed case reveals a lengthening with time of the dominant wave until it reaches the stationary wavelength on the block-onset day. In this context blocking may be understood as a stationarity and thus persistence of one of the two block-onset forcing mechanisms.

Corresponding author address: Stephen J. Colucci, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, 1116 Bradfield Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853. Email: sjc25@cornell.edu

Abstract

The opposition between two block-onset forcing mechanisms, previously identified in midtropospheric analyses over the Southern Hemisphere midlatitudes, is analytically interpreted with an idealized model. These mechanisms are the interaction (Finter) between deformation and potential vorticity and the advection (Fadv) of meridionally varying potential vorticity. Weather systems of concern, primarily consisting of planetary- and synoptic-scale waves, mostly fall into two regimes of zonal and meridional wavenumber space in which the opposition between the two block-onset forcing mechanisms is analytically derived. A synoptic interpretation of this opposition is schematically presented within the framework of barotropic dynamics. It is found that whether blocking occurs in diffluent or confluent flow depends upon the critical wavelength associated with the geostrophic flow. Blocking tends to take place in the diffluent flow of long waves in which Finter dominates over Fadv. In addition, blocking also tends to occur in the confluent flow of relative short waves in which Fadv prevails over Finter. An investigation of Rossby wave phase speeds in one diagnosed case reveals a lengthening with time of the dominant wave until it reaches the stationary wavelength on the block-onset day. In this context blocking may be understood as a stationarity and thus persistence of one of the two block-onset forcing mechanisms.

Corresponding author address: Stephen J. Colucci, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, 1116 Bradfield Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853. Email: sjc25@cornell.edu

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