Cyclogenesis in Polar Air Streams

Richard J. Reed Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle 98195

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Abstract

Two case studies of cyclogenesis that occurred in polar air streams behind or poleward of major frontal bands are presented. Based on the results of the studies, and on other evidence, characteristics of the type of disturbance in question are described. The cyclones in polar air masses are generally of small dimension, being spaced at intervals of 1000–1500 km when they occur in multiple form. They form most often over the oceans in winter, originating in regions of low-level heating and enhanced convection and acquiring a comma-shaped cloud pattern as they mature. They are associated with well-developed baroclinity throughout the troposphere and are located on the poleward side of the jet stream in a region marked by strong cyclonic wind shear and by conditional instability through a substantial depth of the troposphere.

Instability mechanisms for their formation are discussed. It is concluded that they are primarily a baroclinic phenomenon that owe their below average size to the effect that small static stabilities at low levels have in reducing the wavelength of maximum instability and to the fact that they develop on already perturbed large-scale states rather than on uniform zonal flows. Conditional instability of the second kind and barotropic instability cannot be ruled out as possible important additional influences in their formation.

Abstract

Two case studies of cyclogenesis that occurred in polar air streams behind or poleward of major frontal bands are presented. Based on the results of the studies, and on other evidence, characteristics of the type of disturbance in question are described. The cyclones in polar air masses are generally of small dimension, being spaced at intervals of 1000–1500 km when they occur in multiple form. They form most often over the oceans in winter, originating in regions of low-level heating and enhanced convection and acquiring a comma-shaped cloud pattern as they mature. They are associated with well-developed baroclinity throughout the troposphere and are located on the poleward side of the jet stream in a region marked by strong cyclonic wind shear and by conditional instability through a substantial depth of the troposphere.

Instability mechanisms for their formation are discussed. It is concluded that they are primarily a baroclinic phenomenon that owe their below average size to the effect that small static stabilities at low levels have in reducing the wavelength of maximum instability and to the fact that they develop on already perturbed large-scale states rather than on uniform zonal flows. Conditional instability of the second kind and barotropic instability cannot be ruled out as possible important additional influences in their formation.

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