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Chris Snyder
and
Gregory J. Hakim

Abstract

Singular vectors (SVs) have been applied to cyclogenesis, to initializing ensemble forecasts, and in predictability studies. Ideally, the calculation of the SVs would employ the analysis error covariance norm at the initial time or, in the case of cyclogenesis, a norm based on the statistics of initial perturbations, but the energy norm is often used as a more practical substitute.

To illustrate the roles of the choice of norm and the vertical structure of initial perturbations, an upper-level wave with no potential vorticity perturbation in the troposphere is considered as a typical cyclogenetic perturbation or analysis error, and this perturbation is then decomposed by its projection onto each energy SV. All calculations are made, for simplicity, in the context of the quasigeostrophic Eady model (i.e., for a background flow with constant vertical shear and horizontal temperature gradient). Viewed in terms of the energy SVs, the smooth vertical structure of the typical perturbation, as well as its evolution, results from strong cancellation between the growing and decaying SVs, most of which are highly structured and tilted in the vertical.

A simpler picture, involving less cancellation, follows from decomposition of the typical perturbation into SVs using an alternative initial norm, which is based on the relation between initial norms and the statistics of initial perturbations together with the empirical assumption that the initial perturbations are not dominated by interior potential vorticity. Differences between the energy SVs and those based on the alternative initial norm can be understood by noting that the energy norm implicitly assumes initial perturbations with second-order statistics given by the covariance matrix whose inverse defines the energy norm. Unlike the “typical” perturbation, perturbations with those statistics have large variance of potential vorticity in the troposphere and fine vertical structure.

Finally, a brief assessment is presented of the extent to which the upper wave, and more generally the alternative initial norm, is representative of cyclogenetic perturbations and analysis errors. There is substantial evidence supporting deep perturbations with little vertical structure as frequent precursors to cyclogenesis, but surrogates for analysis errors are less conclusive: operational midlatitude analysis differences have vertical structure similar to that of the perturbations implied by the energy norm, while short-range forecast errors and analysis errors from assimilation experiments with simulated observations are more consistent with the alternative norm.

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Richard Rotunno
,
Chris Snyder
, and
Falko Judt

Abstract

Atmospheric predictability is measured by the average difference (or “error”) within an ensemble of forecasts starting from slightly different initial conditions. The spatial scale of the error field is a fundamental quantity; for meteorological applications, the error field typically varies with latitude and longitude and so requires a two-dimensional (2D) spectral analysis. Statistical predictability theory is based on the theory of homogeneous, isotropic turbulence, in which spectra are circularly symmetric in 2D wavenumber space. One takes advantage of this circular symmetry to reduce 2D spectra to one-dimensional (1D) spectra by integrating around a circle in wavenumber polar coordinates. In recent studies it has become common to reduce 2D error spectra to 1D by computing spectra in the zonal direction and then averaging the results over latitude. It is shown here that such 1D error spectra are generically fairly constant across the low wavenumbers as the amplitude of an error spectrum grows with time and therefore the error spectrum is said grow “up-amplitude.” In contrast computing 1D error spectra in a manner consistent with statistical predictability theory gives spectra that are peaked at intermediate wavenumbers. In certain cases, this peak wavenumber is decreasing with time as the error at that wavenumber increases and therefore the error spectrum is said to grow “upscale.” We show through theory, simple examples, and global predictability experiments that comparisons of model error spectra with the predictions of statistical predictability theory are only justified when using a theory-consistent method to transform a 2D error field to a 1D spectrum.

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Shuguang Wang
,
Fuqing Zhang
, and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

This study investigates gravity wave generation and propagation from jets within idealized vortex dipoles using a nonhydrostatic mesoscale model. Two types of initially balanced and localized jets induced by vortex dipoles are examined here. These jets have their maximum strength either at the surface or in the middle levels of a uniformly stratified atmosphere. Within these dipoles, inertia–gravity waves with intrinsic frequencies 1–2 times the Coriolis parameter are simulated in the jet exit region. These gravity waves are nearly phase locked with the jets as shown in previous studies, suggesting spontaneous emission of the waves by the localized jets. A ray tracing technique is further employed to investigate the propagation effects of gravity waves. The ray tracing analysis reveals strong variation of wave characteristics along ray paths due to variations (particularly horizontal variations) in the propagating environment.

The dependence of wave amplitude on the jet strength (and thus on the Rossby number of the flow) is examined through experiments in which the two vortices are initially separated by a large distance but subsequently approach each other and form a vortex dipole with an associated amplifying localized jet. The amplitude of the stationary gravity waves in the simulations with 90-km grid spacing increases as the square of the Rossby number (Ro), when Ro falls in a small range of 0.05–0.15, but does so significantly more rapidly when a smaller grid spacing is used.

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Richard Rotunno
,
William C. Skamarock
, and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

Using a primitive equation (PE) model, we revisit two canonical flows that were previously studied using a semigeostrophic equation (SG) model. In a previous paper, the authors showed that the PE and the SG models can have significantly different versions of the large-scale dynamics—here they report on the implications of this difference for frontogenesis. The program for the study of frontogenesis developed by B. J. Hoskins and collaborators is followed to show how, in the PE version of the canonical cases, the surface warm front develops before the cold front, and why the upper-level front is a long, nearly continuous feature going from ridge to trough. The frontogenesis experienced by an air parcel is computed following the parcel to illustrate better the mechanisms involved. As the present calculations are carried out longer than most previous ones, the relation of the upper frontogenesis to the formation of the upper-level “cutoff” cyclone is also examined. Trajectory and three-dimensional graphical analyses show, with respect to the latter, the extreme distortions of the isentropic surfaces and mixing-induced variations in the potential vorticity field.

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Chris Snyder
,
William C. Skamarock
, and
Richard Rotunno

Abstract

A nonhydrostatic numerical model is used to simulate two-dimensional frontogenesis forced by either horizontal deformation or shear. Both inviscid frontogenesis prior to frontal collapse and frontogenesis with horizontal diffusion following collapse are considered. The numerical solutions generally agree well with semigeostrophic (SG) theory, though differences can be substantial for intense fronts. Certain deviations from SG that have been previously discussed in the literature area, upon closer examination, associated with spurious gravity waves produced by inadequate resolution or by the initialization of the numerical model. Even when spurious waves are eliminated, however, significant deviations from SG still exist: gravity waves are emitted by the frontogenesis when the cross-front scale becomes sufficiently small, and higher-order corrections to SG may also be present. In the postcollapse solutions (where they are most prominent), the emitted waves are stationary with respect to the front and lead to a band of increased low-level ascent just ahead of the surface front. It is suggested here that, when small, the deviations from SG arise as the linear forced response to the cross-front accelerations neglected by SG.

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Chris Snyder
,
William C. Skamarock
, and
Richard Rotunno

Abstract

In the course of adapting a nonhydrostatic cloud model [or primitive-equation model (PE)] for simulations of large-scale baroclinic waves, we have encountered systematic discrepancies between the PE solutions and those of the semigeostrophic (SG) equations. Direct comparisons using identical, uniform potential vorticity jets show that 1) the linear modes of the PE have distinctively different structure than the SG modes; 2) at finite amplitude, the PE pressure field develops lows that are deeper, and highs that are weaker, than in the SG solution; and 3) the nonlinear PE wave produces a characteristic “cyclonic wrapping” of the temperature contours on both horizontal boundaries and has an associated “bent-back” frontal structure at the surface, while in the SG solutions (for this particular basic state jet) there is an equal tendency to pull temperature contours anticyclonically around highs and cyclonically around lows. An analysis of the vorticity and potential vorticity equations for small Rossby number reveals that the SG model errs in its treatment of terms involving the ageostrophic vorticity. Simulations based on an equation set that includes the leading-order dynamical contributions of the ageostrophic vorticity agree more closely with the PE simulations.

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Richard Rotunno
,
William C. Skamarock
, and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

A comparative analysis of simulations of baroclinic waves with and without surface drag is presented, with particular reference to surface features. As in recent studies, the present simulations show that, compared to simulations with no drag, those with surface drag are less inclined to develop a secluded warm sector, and that drag weakens the warm front while the cold front remains strong. The authors demonstrate that analogous effects occur when Ekman pumping is used in nonlinear quasigeostrophic numerical simulations of unstable baroclinic waves in a channel. However, since the quasigeostrophic model produces symmetric highs and lows in the unstable baroclinic wave, the cold and warm fronts are therefore also symmetric and hence equally affected by the Ekman pumping. The different effect that friction has on the warm front with respect to the cold front in the primitive-equation simulations is fundamentally related to the tendency for the lows to be strong and narrow and the highs weak and broad, and for the warm front to form just north of, and extend eastward from, the low, while the cold front extends between the high and the low. The authors’ thesis is that the Ekman pumping associated with the low, at the location where the warm front would form in the absence of surface friction, acts to resist the formation of the warm front, while the cold front, positioned between the high and the low where Ekman pumping associated with the baroclinic wave is weak, is therefore relatively unaffected.

Given the weakness of Ekman pumping associated with the baroclinic wave in the vicinity of the incipient cold front, the present simulations indicate that cold frontogenesis occurs in the drag case in much the same way as in the no-drag case. Present analysis shows that the horizontal advection creating the cold front is a combination of geostrophic and ageostrophic effects. A portion of the ageostrophic frontogenesis is a response to geostrophic frontogenesis, as in the case without surface drag; however with surface drag, a significant portion of the cross-front ageostrophic flow is due to the Ekman layer associated with the front itself.

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Riwal Plougonven
,
David J. Muraki
, and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

Normal modes of a linear vertical shear (Eady shear) are studied within the linearized primitive equations for a rotating stratified fluid above a rigid lower boundary. The authors' interest is in modes having an inertial critical layer present at some height within the flow. Below this layer, the solutions can be closely approximated by balanced edge waves obtained through an asymptotic expansion in Rossby number. Above, the solutions behave as gravity waves. Hence these modes are an example of a spatial coupling of balanced motions to gravity waves.

The amplitude of the gravity waves relative to the balanced part of the solutions is obtained analytically and numerically as a function of parameters. It is shown that the waves are exponentially small in Rossby number. Moreover, their amplitude depends in a nontrivial way on the meridional wavenumber. For modes having a radiating upper boundary condition, the meridional wavenumber for which the gravity wave amplitude is maximal occurs when the tilts of the balanced edge wave and gravity waves agree.

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David J. Muraki
,
Chris Snyder
, and
Richard Rotunno

Abstract

Quasigeostrophic theory is an approximation of the primitive equations in which the dynamics of geostrophically balanced motions are described by the advection of potential vorticity. Quasigeostrophy also represents a leading-order theory in the sense that it is derivable from the full primitive equations in the asymptotic limit of zero Rossby number. Building upon quasigeostrophy, and the centrality of potential vorticity, a systematic asymptotic framework is developed from which balanced, next-order corrections in Rossby number are obtained. The simplicity of the approach is illustrated by explicit construction of the next-order corrections to a finite-amplitude Eady edge wave.

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Richard Rotunno
,
David J. Muraki
, and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

Quasigeostrophic theory is an approximation of the primitive equations in which the dynamics of geostrophically balanced motions are described by the advection of potential vorticity. Quasigeostrophic theory also represents a leading-order theory in the sense that it is derivable from the primitive equations in the asymptotic limit of zero Rossby number. Building upon quasigeostrophic theory, and the centrality of potential vorticity, the authors have recently developed a systematic asymptotic framework from which balanced, next-order corrections in Rossby number can be obtained. The approach is illustrated here through numerical solutions pertaining to unstable waves on baroclinic jets. The numerical solutions using the full primitive equations compare well with numerical solutions to our equations with accuracy one order beyond quasigeostrophic theory; in particular, the inherent asymmetry between cyclones and anticyclones is captured. Explanations of the latter and the associated asymmetry of the warm and cold fronts are given using simple extensions of quasigeostrophic– potential-vorticity thinking to next order.

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