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Yu Nie, Yang Zhang, Gang Chen, and Xiu-Qun Yang


Observations and climate models have shown that the midlatitude eddy-driven jet can exhibit an evident latitudinal shift in response to lower-tropospheric thermal forcing (e.g., the tropical SST warming during El Niño or extratropical SST anomalies associated with the atmosphere–ocean–sea ice coupling). In addition to the direct thermal wind response, the eddy feedbacks—including baroclinic mechanisms, such as lower-level baroclinic eddy generation, and barotropic mechanisms, such as upper-level wave propagation and breaking—can all contribute to the atmospheric circulation response to lower-level thermal forcing, but their individual roles have not been well explained. In this study, using a nonlinear β-plane multilevel quasigeostrophic channel model, the mechanisms through which the lower-level thermal forcing induces the jet shift are investigated. By diagnosing the finite-amplitude wave activity budget, the baroclinic and barotropic eddy feedbacks to the lower-level thermal forcing are delineated. Particularly, by examining the transient circulation response after thermal forcing is switched on, it is shown that the lower-level thermal forcing affects the eddy-driven jet rapidly by modifying the upper-level zonal thermal wind distribution and the associated meridional wave propagation and breaking. The anomalous baroclinic eddy generation, however, acts to enhance the latitudinal shift of the eddy-driven jet only in the later stage of transient response. Furthermore, the barotropic mechanism is explicated by overriding experiments in which the barotropic flow in the vorticity advection is prescribed. Unlike the conventional baroclinic view, the barotropic eddy feedback, particularly the irreversible PV mixing through barotropic vorticity advection and deformation, plays a major role in the atmospheric circulation response to the lower-level thermal forcing.

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Yang Zhang, Xiu-Qun Yang, Yu Nie, and Gang Chen


Eddy–zonal flow interactions in the annular modes are investigated in this study using a modified beta-plane multilayer quasigeostrophic (QG) channel model. This study shows the different response of high- and low-phase-speed (frequency) eddies to the zonal wind anomalies and suggests a baroclinic mechanism through which the two eddies work symbiotically maintaining the positive eddy feedback in the annular modes. Analysis also indicates that the different roles played by these two eddies in the annular modes are related to the differences in their critical line distributions. Eddies with higher phase speeds experience a low-level critical layer at the center of the jet. They drive the zonal wind anomalies associated with the annular mode but weaken the baroclinicity of the jet in the process. Lower-phase-speed eddies encounter low-level critical lines on the jet flanks. While their momentum fluxes are not as important for the jet shift, they play an important role by restoring the lower-level baroclinicity at the jet center, creating a positive feedback loop with the fast eddies that extends the persistence of the jet shift.

The importance of the lower-level baroclinicity restoration by the low-phase-speed eddies in the annular modes is further demonstrated in sensitivity runs, in which surface friction on eddies is increased to selectively damp the low-phase-speed eddies. For simulations in which the low-phase-speed eddies become inactive, the leading mode of the zonal wind variability shifts from the position fluctuation to a pulsing of the jet intensity. Further studies indicate that the response of the lower-level baroclinicity to the zonal wind anomalies caused by the low-phase-speed eddies can be crucial in maintaining the annular mode–like variations.

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