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Dry Intrusions: Lagrangian Climatology and Dynamical Impact on the Planetary Boundary Layer

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  • 1 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
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Abstract

Dry-air intrusions (DIs) are dry, deeply descending airstreams from the upper troposphere toward the planetary boundary layer (PBL). The significance of DIs spans a variety of aspects, including the interaction with convection, extratropical cyclones and fronts, the PBL, and extreme surface weather. Here, a Lagrangian definition for DI trajectories is used and applied to ECMWF interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) data. Based on the criterion of a minimum descent of 400 hPa during 48 h, a first global Lagrangian climatology of DI trajectories is compiled for the years 1979–2014, allowing quantitative understanding of the occurrence and variability of DIs, as well as the dynamical and thermodynamical interactions that determine their impact. DIs occur mainly in winter. While traveling equatorward from 40°–50° latitude, DIs typically reach the lower troposphere (with maximum frequencies of ~10% in winter) in the storm-track regions, as well as over the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Sea, and eastern North Pacific, off the western coast of South America, South Africa, and Australia, and across the Antarctic coast. The DI descent is nearly adiabatic, with a mean potential temperature decrease of 3 K in two days. Relative humidity drops strongly during the first descent day and increases in the second day, because of mixing into the moist PBL. Significant destabilization of the lower levels occurs beneath DIs, accompanied by increased 10-m wind gusts, intense surface heat and moisture fluxes, and elevated PBL heights. Interestingly, only 1.2% of all DIs are found to originate from the stratosphere.

© 2017 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: Shira Raveh-Rubin, shira.raveh@env.ethz.ch

Abstract

Dry-air intrusions (DIs) are dry, deeply descending airstreams from the upper troposphere toward the planetary boundary layer (PBL). The significance of DIs spans a variety of aspects, including the interaction with convection, extratropical cyclones and fronts, the PBL, and extreme surface weather. Here, a Lagrangian definition for DI trajectories is used and applied to ECMWF interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) data. Based on the criterion of a minimum descent of 400 hPa during 48 h, a first global Lagrangian climatology of DI trajectories is compiled for the years 1979–2014, allowing quantitative understanding of the occurrence and variability of DIs, as well as the dynamical and thermodynamical interactions that determine their impact. DIs occur mainly in winter. While traveling equatorward from 40°–50° latitude, DIs typically reach the lower troposphere (with maximum frequencies of ~10% in winter) in the storm-track regions, as well as over the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Sea, and eastern North Pacific, off the western coast of South America, South Africa, and Australia, and across the Antarctic coast. The DI descent is nearly adiabatic, with a mean potential temperature decrease of 3 K in two days. Relative humidity drops strongly during the first descent day and increases in the second day, because of mixing into the moist PBL. Significant destabilization of the lower levels occurs beneath DIs, accompanied by increased 10-m wind gusts, intense surface heat and moisture fluxes, and elevated PBL heights. Interestingly, only 1.2% of all DIs are found to originate from the stratosphere.

© 2017 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: Shira Raveh-Rubin, shira.raveh@env.ethz.ch
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