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Subtropical Anticyclones and Summer Monsoons

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  • 1 Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, Berkshire, Bracknell, United Kingdom
  • | 2 Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The summer subtropical circulation in the lower troposphere is characterized by continental monsoon rains and anticyclones over the oceans. In winter, the subtropical circulation is more strongly dominated by the zonally averaged flow and its interactions with orography. Here, the mechanics of the summer and winter lower-tropospheric subtropical circulation are explored through the use of a primitive equation model and comparison with observations.

By prescribing in the model the heatings associated with several of the world's monsoons, it is confirmed that the equatorward portion of each subtropical anticyclone may be viewed as the Kelvin wave response to the monsoon heating over the continent to the west. A poleward-flowing low-level jet into a monsoon (such as the Great Plains jet) is required for Sverdrup vorticity balance. This jet effectively closes off the subtropical anticyclone to the east and also transports moisture into the monsoon region. The low-level jet into North America induced by its monsoon heating is augmented by a remote response to the Asian monsoon heating.

The Rossby wave response to the west of subtropical monsoon heating, interacting with the midlatitude westerlies, produces a region of adiabatic descent. It is demonstrated here that a local “diabatic enhancement” can lead to a strengthening of the descent. Longitudinal mountain chains act to block the westerly flow and also tend to produce descent in this region. Below the descent, Sverdrup vorticity balance implies equatorward flow that closes off the subtropical anticyclone to the west and induces cool upwelling in the ocean through Ekman transport. Feedbacks, involving, for example, sea surface temperatures, may further enhance the descent in these regions. The conclusion is that the Mediterranean-type climates of regions such as California and Chile may be induced remotely by the monsoon to the east.

Hence it can be argued that the subtropical circulation in summer comprises a set of weakly interacting monsoon systems, each involving monsoon rains, a low-level poleward jet, a subtropical anticyclone to the east, and descent and equatorward flow to the west.

In winter, it is demonstrated how the nonlinear interaction between the strong zonal-mean circulation, associated with the winter “Hadley cell,” and the mountains can define many of the large-scale features of the subtropical circulation. The blocking effect of the longitudinal mountain chains is shown to be very important. Subsequent diabatic effects, such as a local diabatic enhancement, would appear to be essential for producing the observed amplitude of these features.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Mark J. Rodwell, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, London Road, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 2SY, United Kingdom. Email: mjrodwell@meto.gov.uk

Abstract

The summer subtropical circulation in the lower troposphere is characterized by continental monsoon rains and anticyclones over the oceans. In winter, the subtropical circulation is more strongly dominated by the zonally averaged flow and its interactions with orography. Here, the mechanics of the summer and winter lower-tropospheric subtropical circulation are explored through the use of a primitive equation model and comparison with observations.

By prescribing in the model the heatings associated with several of the world's monsoons, it is confirmed that the equatorward portion of each subtropical anticyclone may be viewed as the Kelvin wave response to the monsoon heating over the continent to the west. A poleward-flowing low-level jet into a monsoon (such as the Great Plains jet) is required for Sverdrup vorticity balance. This jet effectively closes off the subtropical anticyclone to the east and also transports moisture into the monsoon region. The low-level jet into North America induced by its monsoon heating is augmented by a remote response to the Asian monsoon heating.

The Rossby wave response to the west of subtropical monsoon heating, interacting with the midlatitude westerlies, produces a region of adiabatic descent. It is demonstrated here that a local “diabatic enhancement” can lead to a strengthening of the descent. Longitudinal mountain chains act to block the westerly flow and also tend to produce descent in this region. Below the descent, Sverdrup vorticity balance implies equatorward flow that closes off the subtropical anticyclone to the west and induces cool upwelling in the ocean through Ekman transport. Feedbacks, involving, for example, sea surface temperatures, may further enhance the descent in these regions. The conclusion is that the Mediterranean-type climates of regions such as California and Chile may be induced remotely by the monsoon to the east.

Hence it can be argued that the subtropical circulation in summer comprises a set of weakly interacting monsoon systems, each involving monsoon rains, a low-level poleward jet, a subtropical anticyclone to the east, and descent and equatorward flow to the west.

In winter, it is demonstrated how the nonlinear interaction between the strong zonal-mean circulation, associated with the winter “Hadley cell,” and the mountains can define many of the large-scale features of the subtropical circulation. The blocking effect of the longitudinal mountain chains is shown to be very important. Subsequent diabatic effects, such as a local diabatic enhancement, would appear to be essential for producing the observed amplitude of these features.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Mark J. Rodwell, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, London Road, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 2SY, United Kingdom. Email: mjrodwell@meto.gov.uk

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