On the Local Available Potential Energy Perspective of Baroclinic Wave Development

Marc Federer aInstitute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

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Lukas Papritz aInstitute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

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Michael Sprenger aInstitute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

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Christian M. Grams bInstitute of Meteorology and Climate Research–Department Troposphere Research (IMK-TRO), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany

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Marta Wenta bInstitute of Meteorology and Climate Research–Department Troposphere Research (IMK-TRO), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany

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Abstract

Extratropical cyclones convert available potential energy (APE) to kinetic energy. However, our current understanding of APE conversion on synoptic scales is limited, as the well-established Lorenz APE framework is only applicable in a global, volume-integrated sense. Here, we employ a recently developed local APE framework to investigate APE and its tendencies in a highly idealized, dispersive baroclinic wave, which leads to the formation of a primary and a downstream cyclone. By utilizing a Lagrangian approach, we demonstrate that locally the downstream cyclone not only consumes APE but also generates it. Initially, APE is transported from both poleward and equatorward reservoirs into the baroclinic zone, where it is then consumed by the vertical displacement of air parcels associated with the developing cyclone. To a lesser extent, APE is also created within the cyclone when air parcels overshoot their reference state; i.e., air colder than its reference state is lifted and air warmer than its reference state is lowered. The volume integral of the APE tendency is dominated by slow vertical displacements of large air masses, whereas the dry intrusion (DI) and warm conveyor belt (WCB) of the cyclone are responsible for the largest local APE tendencies. Diabatic effects within the DI and WCB contribute to the generation of APE in regions where it is consumed adiabatically, thereby enhancing baroclinic conversion in situ. Our findings provide a comprehensive and mechanistic understanding of the local APE tendency on synoptic scales within an idealized setting and complement existing frameworks explaining the energetics of cyclone intensification.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Marc Federer, marc.federer@env.ethz.ch

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones convert available potential energy (APE) to kinetic energy. However, our current understanding of APE conversion on synoptic scales is limited, as the well-established Lorenz APE framework is only applicable in a global, volume-integrated sense. Here, we employ a recently developed local APE framework to investigate APE and its tendencies in a highly idealized, dispersive baroclinic wave, which leads to the formation of a primary and a downstream cyclone. By utilizing a Lagrangian approach, we demonstrate that locally the downstream cyclone not only consumes APE but also generates it. Initially, APE is transported from both poleward and equatorward reservoirs into the baroclinic zone, where it is then consumed by the vertical displacement of air parcels associated with the developing cyclone. To a lesser extent, APE is also created within the cyclone when air parcels overshoot their reference state; i.e., air colder than its reference state is lifted and air warmer than its reference state is lowered. The volume integral of the APE tendency is dominated by slow vertical displacements of large air masses, whereas the dry intrusion (DI) and warm conveyor belt (WCB) of the cyclone are responsible for the largest local APE tendencies. Diabatic effects within the DI and WCB contribute to the generation of APE in regions where it is consumed adiabatically, thereby enhancing baroclinic conversion in situ. Our findings provide a comprehensive and mechanistic understanding of the local APE tendency on synoptic scales within an idealized setting and complement existing frameworks explaining the energetics of cyclone intensification.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Marc Federer, marc.federer@env.ethz.ch

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