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Influence of Latitude and Moisture Effects on the Barotropic Instability of an Idealized ITCZ

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  • 1 a Department of Atmospheric and Oceanics Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Abstract

A large fraction of tropical cyclones (TCs) are generated near the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), and barotropic instability of the related wind shear has been shown to be an important generation mechanism. The latitudinal position of the ITCZ shifts seasonally and may shift poleward in response to global warming. Aquaplanet GCM simulations have shown TC-generation frequency to vary with position of the ITCZ. These results, and that moisture plays an essential role in the dynamics, motivate the present study on the growth rates of barotropic instability in ITCZ-like zonal wind profiles. Base-state zonal wind profiles are generated by applying a prescribed forcing (representing zonally averaged latent heat release in the ITCZ) to a shallow-water model. Shifting the latitudinal position of the forcing alters these profiles, with a poleward shift leading to enhanced barotropic instability. Next, an examination of how latent release impacts the barotropic breakdown of these profiles is considered. To do this, moisture is explicitly represented using a tracer variable. Upon supersaturation, precipitation occurs and the related latent heat release is parameterized as a mass transfer out of the dynamically active layer. Whether moisture serves to enhance or reduce barotropic growth rates is found to depend on how saturation humidity is represented. In particular, taking it to be constant or a function of the layer thickness (related to temperature) leads to a reduction, whereas taking it to be a specified function of latitude leads to an enhancement. Simple arguments are given to support the idea that moisture effects should lead to a reduction in the moist shallow-water model and that a poleward shift of the ITCZ should lead to an enhancement of barotropic instability.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Eric Bembenek, eric.bembenek@mail.mcgill.ca

Abstract

A large fraction of tropical cyclones (TCs) are generated near the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), and barotropic instability of the related wind shear has been shown to be an important generation mechanism. The latitudinal position of the ITCZ shifts seasonally and may shift poleward in response to global warming. Aquaplanet GCM simulations have shown TC-generation frequency to vary with position of the ITCZ. These results, and that moisture plays an essential role in the dynamics, motivate the present study on the growth rates of barotropic instability in ITCZ-like zonal wind profiles. Base-state zonal wind profiles are generated by applying a prescribed forcing (representing zonally averaged latent heat release in the ITCZ) to a shallow-water model. Shifting the latitudinal position of the forcing alters these profiles, with a poleward shift leading to enhanced barotropic instability. Next, an examination of how latent release impacts the barotropic breakdown of these profiles is considered. To do this, moisture is explicitly represented using a tracer variable. Upon supersaturation, precipitation occurs and the related latent heat release is parameterized as a mass transfer out of the dynamically active layer. Whether moisture serves to enhance or reduce barotropic growth rates is found to depend on how saturation humidity is represented. In particular, taking it to be constant or a function of the layer thickness (related to temperature) leads to a reduction, whereas taking it to be a specified function of latitude leads to an enhancement. Simple arguments are given to support the idea that moisture effects should lead to a reduction in the moist shallow-water model and that a poleward shift of the ITCZ should lead to an enhancement of barotropic instability.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Eric Bembenek, eric.bembenek@mail.mcgill.ca
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