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Can the Increase in the Eddy Length Scale under Global Warming Cause the Poleward Shift of the Jet Streams?

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  • 1 Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 2 National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand
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Abstract

The question of whether an increase in the atmospheric eddy length scale may cause a poleward shift of the midlatitude jet streams is addressed. An increase in the length scale of the eddy reduces its zonal phase speed and so causes eddies to dissipate farther from the jet core. If the eddy dissipation region on the poleward flank of the jet overlaps with the eddy source latitudes, shifting this dissipation to higher latitudes will alter which latitudes are a net source of baroclinic eddies, and hence the eddy-driven jet stream may shift poleward. This behavior does not affect the equatorward flank of the jet in the same way because the dissipation region on the equatorward flank is well separated from the source latitudes. An experiment with a barotropic model is presented in which an increase in the length scale of a midlatitude perturbation results in a poleward shift in the acceleration of the zonal flow. Initial investigations indicate that this behavior is also important in both observational data and the output of comprehensive general circulation models (GCMs). A simplified GCM is used to show that the latitude of the eddy-driven jet is well correlated with the eddy length scale. It is argued that the increase in the eddy length scale causes the poleward shift of the jet in these experiments, rather than vice versa.

Corresponding author address: Joseph Kidston, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Forrestal Campus, Princeton, NJ 08540. E-mail: jkidston@princeton.edu

Abstract

The question of whether an increase in the atmospheric eddy length scale may cause a poleward shift of the midlatitude jet streams is addressed. An increase in the length scale of the eddy reduces its zonal phase speed and so causes eddies to dissipate farther from the jet core. If the eddy dissipation region on the poleward flank of the jet overlaps with the eddy source latitudes, shifting this dissipation to higher latitudes will alter which latitudes are a net source of baroclinic eddies, and hence the eddy-driven jet stream may shift poleward. This behavior does not affect the equatorward flank of the jet in the same way because the dissipation region on the equatorward flank is well separated from the source latitudes. An experiment with a barotropic model is presented in which an increase in the length scale of a midlatitude perturbation results in a poleward shift in the acceleration of the zonal flow. Initial investigations indicate that this behavior is also important in both observational data and the output of comprehensive general circulation models (GCMs). A simplified GCM is used to show that the latitude of the eddy-driven jet is well correlated with the eddy length scale. It is argued that the increase in the eddy length scale causes the poleward shift of the jet in these experiments, rather than vice versa.

Corresponding author address: Joseph Kidston, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Forrestal Campus, Princeton, NJ 08540. E-mail: jkidston@princeton.edu
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