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Linda Schlemmer
,
Olivia Martius
,
Michael Sprenger
,
Cornelia Schwierz
, and
Arwen Twitchett

Abstract

Extreme precipitation events along the Alpine south side (AS) are often forced by upper-level positive potential vorticity (PV) anomalies over western Europe. These so-called PV streamers go along with a dynamical forcing for upward motion, a reduction of the static stability in the troposphere (hence facilitating convection), and are associated with low-level winds that transport moisture toward the Alps.

A case of heavy precipitation is examined using the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis data. Piecewise PV inversion (PPVI) and the limited-area Climate High Resolution Model (CHRM) are used to assess the influences of mesoscale parts of the streamer on the precipitation event. The impacts on the vertical stability are quantified by the convective available potential energy (CAPE) and an index of static stability. Very sensitive areas in terms of the stability are located beneath the southern tip of the streamer; smaller changes in the stability are observed in the Alpine region.

The moisture transport toward the Alps is sensitive to the amplitude of the streamer, which influences the amount of water that can be transported along its eastern flank.

The impacts of the topography on the flow are assessed by calculating an average inverse Froude number. Whether or not the air parcels are blocked by or lifted over the barrier (going along with suppressed and enhanced precipitation, respectively) depends on the vertical stability and the impinging wind velocity, two parameters that are inherently linked to the PV streamer and its substructure.

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Sarah F. Kew
,
Michael Sprenger
, and
Huw C. Davies

Abstract

Inspection of the potential vorticity (PV) distribution on isentropic surfaces in the lowermost stratosphere reveals the ubiquitous presence of numerous subsynoptic positive PV anomalies. To examine the space–time characteristics of these anomalies, a combined “identification and tracking” tool is developed that can catalog each individual anomaly’s effective amplitude, location, overall spatial structure, and movement from genesis to lysis. A 10-yr winter climatology of such anomalies in the Northern Hemisphere is derived for the period 1991–2001 based upon the 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-40). The climatology indicates that the anomalies are frequently evident above high topography and in a quasi-annular band at about 70°N, are long lived (days to weeks), and that their effective amplitude is typically 2 PV units (PVU) higher than that of the ambient environment. In addition, the derived climatologies and associated composites pose questions regarding the origin of the anomalies, detail their life cycle, and shed light on their dynamics and role as long-lived precursors of surface cyclogenesis.

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