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A Lagrangian Analysis of the Northern Hemisphere Subtropical Jet

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  • 1 Institute of Geography, Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
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Abstract

This study presents a 5-yr climatology of 7-day back trajectories started from the Northern Hemisphere subtropical jet. These trajectories provide insight into the seasonally and regionally varying angular momentum and potential vorticity characteristics of the air parcels that end up in the subtropical jet. The trajectories reveal preferred pathways of the air parcels that reach the subtropical jet from the tropics and the extratropics and allow estimation of the tropical and extratropical forcing of the subtropical jet.

The back trajectories were calculated 7 days back in time and started every 6 h from December 2005 to November 2010 using the Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) dataset as a basis. The trajectories were started from the 345-K isentrope in areas where the wind speed exceeded a seasonally varying threshold and where the wind shear was confined to upper levels.

During winter, the South American continent, the Indian Ocean, and the Maritime Continent are preferred areas of ascent into the upper troposphere. From these areas, air parcels follow an anticyclonic pathway into the subtropical jet. During summer, the majority of air parcels ascend over the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.

Angular momentum is overall well conserved for trajectories that reach the subtropical jet from the deep tropics. In winter and spring, the hemispheric-mean angular momentum loss amounts to approximately 6%; in summer, it amounts to approximately 18%; and in fall, it amounts to approximately 13%. This seasonal variability is confirmed using an independent potential vorticity–based method to estimate tropical and extratropical forcing of the subtropical jet.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Olivia Martius, Institute of Geography, Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 12, CH-3012, Bern, Switzerland. E-mail: olivia.martius@giub.unibe.ch

Abstract

This study presents a 5-yr climatology of 7-day back trajectories started from the Northern Hemisphere subtropical jet. These trajectories provide insight into the seasonally and regionally varying angular momentum and potential vorticity characteristics of the air parcels that end up in the subtropical jet. The trajectories reveal preferred pathways of the air parcels that reach the subtropical jet from the tropics and the extratropics and allow estimation of the tropical and extratropical forcing of the subtropical jet.

The back trajectories were calculated 7 days back in time and started every 6 h from December 2005 to November 2010 using the Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) dataset as a basis. The trajectories were started from the 345-K isentrope in areas where the wind speed exceeded a seasonally varying threshold and where the wind shear was confined to upper levels.

During winter, the South American continent, the Indian Ocean, and the Maritime Continent are preferred areas of ascent into the upper troposphere. From these areas, air parcels follow an anticyclonic pathway into the subtropical jet. During summer, the majority of air parcels ascend over the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.

Angular momentum is overall well conserved for trajectories that reach the subtropical jet from the deep tropics. In winter and spring, the hemispheric-mean angular momentum loss amounts to approximately 6%; in summer, it amounts to approximately 18%; and in fall, it amounts to approximately 13%. This seasonal variability is confirmed using an independent potential vorticity–based method to estimate tropical and extratropical forcing of the subtropical jet.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Olivia Martius, Institute of Geography, Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 12, CH-3012, Bern, Switzerland. E-mail: olivia.martius@giub.unibe.ch
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