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Warm Season Subseasonal Variability and Climate Extremes in the Northern Hemisphere: The Role of Stationary Rossby Waves

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  • 1 Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 2 Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, and Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center, University of Maryland at Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland
  • | 3 Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, Maryland
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Abstract

This study examines the nature of boreal summer subseasonal atmospheric variability based on the new NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) for the period 1979–2010. An analysis of the June, July, and August subseasonal 250-hPa meridional υ-wind anomalies shows distinct Rossby wave–like structures that appear to be guided by the mean jets. On monthly subseasonal time scales, the leading waves [the first 10 rotated empirical orthogonal functions (REOFs) of the 250-hPa υ wind] explain about 50% of the Northern Hemisphere υ-wind variability and account for more than 30% (60%) of the precipitation (surface temperature) variability over a number of regions of the northern middle and high latitudes, including the U.S. northern Great Plains, parts of Canada, Europe, and Russia. The first REOF in particular consists of a Rossby wave that extends across northern Eurasia where it is a dominant contributor to monthly surface temperature and precipitation variability and played an important role in the 2003 European and 2010 Russian heat waves. While primarily subseasonal in nature, the Rossby waves can at times have a substantial seasonal mean component. This is exemplified by REOF 4, which played a major role in the development of the most intense anomalies of the U.S. 1988 drought (during June) and the 1993 flooding (during July), though differed in the latter event by also making an important contribution to the seasonal mean anomalies. A stationary wave model (SWM) is used to reproduce some of the basic features of the observed waves and provide insight into the nature of the forcing. In particular, the responses to a set of idealized forcing functions are used to map the optimal forcing patterns of the leading waves. Also, experiments to reproduce the observed waves with the SWM using MERRA-based estimates of the forcing indicate that the wave forcing is dominated by submonthly vorticity transients.

Current affiliation: Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Lanham, Maryland.

Corresponding author address: Siegfried Schubert, 8800 Greenbelt Rd., NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: siegfried.d.schubert@nasa.gov

This article is included in the MERRA: Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications special collection.

Abstract

This study examines the nature of boreal summer subseasonal atmospheric variability based on the new NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) for the period 1979–2010. An analysis of the June, July, and August subseasonal 250-hPa meridional υ-wind anomalies shows distinct Rossby wave–like structures that appear to be guided by the mean jets. On monthly subseasonal time scales, the leading waves [the first 10 rotated empirical orthogonal functions (REOFs) of the 250-hPa υ wind] explain about 50% of the Northern Hemisphere υ-wind variability and account for more than 30% (60%) of the precipitation (surface temperature) variability over a number of regions of the northern middle and high latitudes, including the U.S. northern Great Plains, parts of Canada, Europe, and Russia. The first REOF in particular consists of a Rossby wave that extends across northern Eurasia where it is a dominant contributor to monthly surface temperature and precipitation variability and played an important role in the 2003 European and 2010 Russian heat waves. While primarily subseasonal in nature, the Rossby waves can at times have a substantial seasonal mean component. This is exemplified by REOF 4, which played a major role in the development of the most intense anomalies of the U.S. 1988 drought (during June) and the 1993 flooding (during July), though differed in the latter event by also making an important contribution to the seasonal mean anomalies. A stationary wave model (SWM) is used to reproduce some of the basic features of the observed waves and provide insight into the nature of the forcing. In particular, the responses to a set of idealized forcing functions are used to map the optimal forcing patterns of the leading waves. Also, experiments to reproduce the observed waves with the SWM using MERRA-based estimates of the forcing indicate that the wave forcing is dominated by submonthly vorticity transients.

Current affiliation: Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Lanham, Maryland.

Corresponding author address: Siegfried Schubert, 8800 Greenbelt Rd., NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: siegfried.d.schubert@nasa.gov

This article is included in the MERRA: Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications special collection.

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