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Julia H. Keller, Christian M. Grams, Michael Riemer, Heather M. Archambault, Lance Bosart, James D. Doyle, Jenni L. Evans, Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., Kyle Griffin, Patrick A. Harr, Naoko Kitabatake, Ron McTaggart-Cowan, Florian Pantillon, Julian F. Quinting, Carolyn A. Reynolds, Elizabeth A. Ritchie, Ryan D. Torn, and Fuqing Zhang


The extratropical transition (ET) of tropical cyclones often has an important impact on the nature and predictability of the midlatitude flow. This review synthesizes the current understanding of the dynamical and physical processes that govern this impact and highlights the relationship of downstream development during ET to high-impact weather, with a focus on downstream regions. It updates a previous review from 2003 and identifies new and emerging challenges and future research needs. First, the mechanisms through which the transitioning cyclone impacts the midlatitude flow in its immediate vicinity are discussed. This “direct impact” manifests in the formation of a jet streak and the amplification of a ridge directly downstream of the cyclone. This initial flow modification triggers or amplifies a midlatitude Rossby wave packet, which disperses the impact of ET into downstream regions (downstream impact) and may contribute to the formation of high-impact weather. Details are provided concerning the impact of ET on forecast uncertainty in downstream regions and on the impact of observations on forecast skill. The sources and characteristics of the following key features and processes that may determine the manifestation of the impact of ET on the midlatitude flow are discussed: the upper-tropospheric divergent outflow, mainly associated with latent heat release in the troposphere below, and the phasing between the transitioning cyclone and the midlatitude wave pattern. Improving the representation of diabatic processes during ET in models and a climatological assessment of the ET’s impact on downstream high-impact weather are examples for future research directions.

Open access
Volkmar Wirth, Michael Riemer, Edmund K. M. Chang, and Olivia Martius


Rossby wave packets (RWPs) are Rossby waves for which the amplitude has a local maximum and decays to smaller values at larger distances. This review focuses on upper-tropospheric transient RWPs along the midlatitude jet stream. Their central characteristic is the propagation in the zonal direction as well as the transfer of wave energy from one individual trough or ridge to its downstream neighbor, a process called “downstream development.” These RWPs sometimes act as long-range precursors to extreme weather and presumably have an influence on the predictability of midlatitude weather systems. The paper reviews research progress in this area with an emphasis on developments during the last 15 years. The current state of knowledge is summarized including a discussion of the RWP life cycle as well as Rossby waveguides. Recent progress in the dynamical understanding of RWPs has been based, in part, on the development of diagnostic methods. These methods include algorithms to identify and track RWPs in an automated manner, which can be used to extract the climatological properties of RWPs. RWP dynamics have traditionally been investigated using the eddy kinetic energy framework; alternative approaches based on potential vorticity and wave activity fluxes are discussed and put into perspective with the more traditional approach. The different diagnostics are compared to each other and the strengths and weaknesses of individual methods are highlighted. A recurrent theme is the role of diabatic processes, which can be a source for forecast errors. Finally, the paper points to important open research questions and suggests avenues for future research.

Open access