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Do High-Frequency Eddies Contribute to Low-Frequency Teleconnection Tendencies?

Panos J. AthanasiadisDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Maarten H. P. AmbaumDepartment of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Abstract

An isentropic potential vorticity (PV) budget analysis is employed to examine the role of synoptic transients, advection, and nonconservative processes as forcings for the evolution of the low-frequency PV anomalies locally and those associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern. Specifically, the rate of change of the low-frequency PV is expressed as a sum of tendencies due to divergence of eddy transport, advection by the low-frequency flow (hereafter referred to as advection), and the residual nonconservative processes. The balance between the variances and covariances of these terms is illustrated using a novel vector representation.

It is shown that for most locations, as well as for the PNA pattern, the PV variability is dominantly driven by advection. The eddy forcing explains a small amount of the tendency variance. For the NAO, the role of synoptic eddy fluxes is found to be stronger, explaining on average 15% of the NAO tendency variance. Previous studies have not assessed quantitively how the various forcings balance the tendency. Thus, such studies may have overestimated the role of eddy fluxes for the evolution of teleconnections by examining, for example, composites and regressions that indicate maintenance, rather than evolution driven by the eddies. The authors confirm this contrasting view by showing that during persistent blocking (negative NAO) episodes the eddy driving is relatively stronger.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Panos J. Athanasiadis, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. Email: panos@atmos.washington.edu

Abstract

An isentropic potential vorticity (PV) budget analysis is employed to examine the role of synoptic transients, advection, and nonconservative processes as forcings for the evolution of the low-frequency PV anomalies locally and those associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern. Specifically, the rate of change of the low-frequency PV is expressed as a sum of tendencies due to divergence of eddy transport, advection by the low-frequency flow (hereafter referred to as advection), and the residual nonconservative processes. The balance between the variances and covariances of these terms is illustrated using a novel vector representation.

It is shown that for most locations, as well as for the PNA pattern, the PV variability is dominantly driven by advection. The eddy forcing explains a small amount of the tendency variance. For the NAO, the role of synoptic eddy fluxes is found to be stronger, explaining on average 15% of the NAO tendency variance. Previous studies have not assessed quantitively how the various forcings balance the tendency. Thus, such studies may have overestimated the role of eddy fluxes for the evolution of teleconnections by examining, for example, composites and regressions that indicate maintenance, rather than evolution driven by the eddies. The authors confirm this contrasting view by showing that during persistent blocking (negative NAO) episodes the eddy driving is relatively stronger.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Panos J. Athanasiadis, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. Email: panos@atmos.washington.edu

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