On the Efficiency of Baroclinic Eddy Growth and How It Reduces the North Pacific Storm-Track Intensity in Midwinter

Sebastian Schemm Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

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Gwendal Rivière LMD/IPSL, École Normale Supérieure, PSL Research University, Sorbonne Université, École Polytechnique, CNRS, Paris, France

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Abstract

This study investigates the efficiency of baroclinic eddy growth in an effort to better understand the suppression of the North Pacific storm-track intensity in winter. The efficiency of baroclinic eddy growth depends on the magnitude and orientation of the vertical tilt of the eddy geopotential isolines. The eddy efficiency is maximized if the orientation of the vertical tilt creates an eddy heat flux that aligns with the mean baroclinicity (defined as minus the temperature gradient divided by a stratification parameter) and if the magnitude of the vertical tilt is neither too strong nor too weak. The eddy efficiency is, in contrast to most other eddy measures, independent of the eddy amplitude and thus useful for improving our mechanistic understanding of the effective eddy growth. During the midwinter suppression, the eddy efficiency is reduced north of 40°N over a region upstream of the main storm track, and baroclinic growth is reduced despite a maximum in baroclinicity. Eulerian diagnostics and feature tracking suggest that the reduction in eddy efficiency is due to a stronger poleward tilt with height of eddies entering the Pacific through the northern seeding branch, which results in a more eastward-oriented eddy heat flux and a reduced alignment with the baroclinicity. The stronger poleward tilt with height is constrained by the eddy propagation direction, which is more equatorward when the subtropical jet moves equatorward in winter. In addition, the westward tilt with height is too strong. South of 40°N, the eddy efficiency increases during midwinter but in a region far away from the main storm track.

© 2019 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: Sebastian Schemm, sebastian.schemm@env.ethz.ch

Abstract

This study investigates the efficiency of baroclinic eddy growth in an effort to better understand the suppression of the North Pacific storm-track intensity in winter. The efficiency of baroclinic eddy growth depends on the magnitude and orientation of the vertical tilt of the eddy geopotential isolines. The eddy efficiency is maximized if the orientation of the vertical tilt creates an eddy heat flux that aligns with the mean baroclinicity (defined as minus the temperature gradient divided by a stratification parameter) and if the magnitude of the vertical tilt is neither too strong nor too weak. The eddy efficiency is, in contrast to most other eddy measures, independent of the eddy amplitude and thus useful for improving our mechanistic understanding of the effective eddy growth. During the midwinter suppression, the eddy efficiency is reduced north of 40°N over a region upstream of the main storm track, and baroclinic growth is reduced despite a maximum in baroclinicity. Eulerian diagnostics and feature tracking suggest that the reduction in eddy efficiency is due to a stronger poleward tilt with height of eddies entering the Pacific through the northern seeding branch, which results in a more eastward-oriented eddy heat flux and a reduced alignment with the baroclinicity. The stronger poleward tilt with height is constrained by the eddy propagation direction, which is more equatorward when the subtropical jet moves equatorward in winter. In addition, the westward tilt with height is too strong. South of 40°N, the eddy efficiency increases during midwinter but in a region far away from the main storm track.

© 2019 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: Sebastian Schemm, sebastian.schemm@env.ethz.ch
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