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The Origin and Dispersion Characteristics of the Observed Tropical Summertime Synoptic-Scale Waves over the Western Pacific

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  • 1 International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Abstract

The origin, initiation, and dispersion behavior of the observed summertime synoptic-scale disturbances in the tropical western Pacific are studied. These westward-propagating disturbances have the strongest growth rate over the region of ∼130°–160°E off the equator. The three-dimensional wave activity flux associated with a wave packet in the vicinity of this region is computed. In general, wave activity is directed westward. There is accumulation of activity flux, which gives rise to the amplification of waves. In the low levels, such accumulation can be attributed to the convergence of both the mean flow and the intrinsic group velocity. Diabatic forcing also contributes to the growth of disturbances and is most important in the 500–600-hPa layer. Along the east–west-oriented “storm tracks” of the synoptic-scale disturbances, there are two different dynamical regimes. West of ∼150°E, enhanced convection is associated with increased specific humidity at the top of the planetary boundary layer and is in phase with positive low-level vorticity anomalies. To the east of 150°E the vorticity leads the convection by about one-quarter of a wavelength. This phase relationship can be explained by adiabatic dynamics and is related to the positive vertical shear of the mean zonal flow in the latter region.

Near and to the east of the date line where disturbances are initiated in the low levels, the heat flux associated with the synoptic-scale eddies is negative (i.e., υT ′ < 0) from about 300 to 700 hPa. This implies downward-directed wave activity. In the upper troposphere at the same geographical location, there is southward wave activity from the extratropics penetrating into the Tropics. These findings suggest that summertime synoptic-scale disturbances may originate from extratropical forcing. This hypothesis is supported by a case study. Intrusion of high potential vorticity into the Tropics was seen to be followed by downward development, resulting in low-level disturbances that subsequently moved westward in the western Pacific and grew.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Chi-Yung Tam, International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, 1680 East West Road, POST Bldg., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: chiyung@hawaii.edu

Abstract

The origin, initiation, and dispersion behavior of the observed summertime synoptic-scale disturbances in the tropical western Pacific are studied. These westward-propagating disturbances have the strongest growth rate over the region of ∼130°–160°E off the equator. The three-dimensional wave activity flux associated with a wave packet in the vicinity of this region is computed. In general, wave activity is directed westward. There is accumulation of activity flux, which gives rise to the amplification of waves. In the low levels, such accumulation can be attributed to the convergence of both the mean flow and the intrinsic group velocity. Diabatic forcing also contributes to the growth of disturbances and is most important in the 500–600-hPa layer. Along the east–west-oriented “storm tracks” of the synoptic-scale disturbances, there are two different dynamical regimes. West of ∼150°E, enhanced convection is associated with increased specific humidity at the top of the planetary boundary layer and is in phase with positive low-level vorticity anomalies. To the east of 150°E the vorticity leads the convection by about one-quarter of a wavelength. This phase relationship can be explained by adiabatic dynamics and is related to the positive vertical shear of the mean zonal flow in the latter region.

Near and to the east of the date line where disturbances are initiated in the low levels, the heat flux associated with the synoptic-scale eddies is negative (i.e., υT ′ < 0) from about 300 to 700 hPa. This implies downward-directed wave activity. In the upper troposphere at the same geographical location, there is southward wave activity from the extratropics penetrating into the Tropics. These findings suggest that summertime synoptic-scale disturbances may originate from extratropical forcing. This hypothesis is supported by a case study. Intrusion of high potential vorticity into the Tropics was seen to be followed by downward development, resulting in low-level disturbances that subsequently moved westward in the western Pacific and grew.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Chi-Yung Tam, International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, 1680 East West Road, POST Bldg., Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: chiyung@hawaii.edu

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