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Riwal Plougonven
and
Chris Snyder

Abstract

The spontaneous generation of inertia–gravity waves in idealized life cycles of baroclinic instability is investigated using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model. Two substantially different life cycles of baroclinic instability are obtained by varying the initial zonal jet. The wave generation depends strongly on the details of the baroclinic wave’s development. In the life cycle dominated by cyclonic behavior, the most conspicuous gravity waves are excited by the upper-level jet and are broadly consistent with previous simulations of O’Sullivan and Dunkerton. In the life cycle that is dominated by anticyclonic behavior, the most conspicuous gravity waves even in the stratosphere are excited by the surface fronts, although the fronts are no stronger than in the cyclonic life cycle. The anticyclonic life cycle also reveals waves in the lower stratosphere above the upper-level trough of the baroclinic wave; these waves have not been previously identified in idealized simulations. The sensitivities of the different waves to both resolution and dissipation are discussed.

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François Lott
,
Riwal Plougonven
, and
Jacques Vanneste

Abstract

The gravity waves (GWs) produced by three-dimensional potential vorticity (PV) anomalies are examined under the assumption of constant vertical shear, constant stratification, and unbounded domain. As in the two-dimensional case analyzed in an earlier paper, the disturbance near the PV anomaly is well modeled by quasigeostrophic theory. At larger distances the nature of the disturbance changes across the two inertial layers that are located above and below the anomaly, and it takes the form of a vertically propagating GW beyond these.

For a horizontally monochromatic PV anomaly of infinitesimal depth, the disturbance is described analytically using both an exact solution and a WKB approximation; the latter includes an exponentially small term that captures the change of the solution near the PV anomaly induced by the radiation boundary condition in the far field. The analytical results reveal a strong sensitivity of the emission to the Richardson number and to the orientation of the horizontal wavenumber: the absorptive properties of the inertial layers are such that the emission is maximized in the Northern Hemisphere for wavenumbers at negative angles to the shear.

For localized PV anomalies, numerical computations give the temporal evolution of the GW field. Analytical and numerical results are also used to establish an explicit form for the Eliassen–Palm flux that could be used to parameterize GW sources in GCMs. The properties of the Eliassen–Palm flux vector imply that in a westerly shear, the GWs exert a drag in a southwest direction in the upper inertial layer, and in a northwest direction at the altitudes where the GWs dissipate aloft.

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François Lott
,
Riwal Plougonven
, and
Jacques Vanneste

Abstract

The gravity waves (GWs) generated by potential vorticity (PV) anomalies in a rotating stratified shear flow are examined under the assumptions of constant vertical shear, two-dimensionality, and unbounded domain. Near a PV anomaly, the associated perturbation is well modeled by quasigeostrophic theory. This is not the case at large vertical distances, however, and in particular beyond the two inertial layers that appear above and below the anomaly; there, the perturbation consists of vertically propagating gravity waves. This structure is described analytically, using an expansion in the continuous spectrum of the singular modes that results from the presence of critical levels.

Several explicit results are obtained. These include the form of the Eliassen–Palm (EP) flux as a function of the Richardson number N22, where N is the Brunt–Väisälä frequency and Λ the vertical shear. Its nondimensional value is shown to be approximately exp(−πN/Λ)/8 in the far-field GW region, approximately twice that between the two inertial layers. These results, which imply substantial wave–flow interactions in the inertial layers, are valid for Richardson numbers larger than 1 and for a large range of PV distributions. In dimensional form they provide simple relationships between the EP fluxes and the large-scale flow characteristics.

As an illustration, the authors consider a PV disturbance with an amplitude of 1 PVU and a depth of 1 km, and estimate that the associated EP flux ranges between 0.1 and 100 mPa for a Richardson number between 1 and 10. These values of the flux are comparable with those observed in the lower stratosphere, which suggests that the mechanism identified in this paper provides a substantial gravity wave source, one that could be parameterized in GCMs.

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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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Chris Snyder
,
Riwal Plougonven
, and
David J. Muraki

Abstract

Previous simulations of dipole vortices propagating through rotating, stratified fluid have revealed small-scale inertia–gravity waves that are embedded within the dipole near its leading edge and are approximately stationary relative to the dipole. The mechanism by which these waves are generated is investigated, beginning from the observation that the dipole can be reasonably approximated by a balanced quasigeostrophic (QG) solution. The deviations from the QG solution (including the waves) then satisfy linear equations that come from linearization of the governing equations about the QG dipole and are forced by the residual tendency of the QG dipole (i.e., the difference between the time tendency of the QG solution and that of the full primitive equations initialized with the QG fields). The waves do not appear to be generated by an instability of the balanced dipole, as homogeneous solutions of the linear equations amplify little over the time scale for which the linear equations are valid. Linear solutions forced by the residual tendency capture the scale, location, and pattern of the inertia–gravity waves, although they overpredict the wave amplitude by a factor of 2. There is thus strong evidence that the waves are generated as a forced linear response to the balanced flow. The relation to and differences from other theories for wave generation by balanced flows, including those of Lighthill and Ford et al., are discussed.

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Albert Hertzog
,
M. Joan Alexander
, and
Riwal Plougonven

Abstract

In this article, long-duration balloon and spaceborne observations, and mesoscale numerical simulations are used to study the intermittency of gravity waves in the lower stratosphere above Antarctica and the Southern Ocean; namely, the characteristics of the gravity wave momentum-flux probability density functions (pdfs) obtained with these three datasets are described. The pdfs consistently exhibit long tails associated with the occurrence of rare and large-amplitude events. The pdf tails are even longer above mountains than above oceanic areas, which is in agreement with previous studies of gravity wave intermittency in this region. It is moreover found that these rare, large-amplitude events represent the main contribution to the total momentum flux during the winter regime of the stratospheric circulation. In contrast, the wave intermittency significantly decreases when stratospheric easterlies develop in late spring and summer. It is also shown that, except above mountainous areas in winter, the momentum-flux pdfs tend to behave like lognormal distributions. Monte Carlo simulations are undertaken to examine the role played by critical levels in influencing the shape of momentum-flux pdfs. In particular, the study finds that the lognormal shape may result from the propagation of a wave spectrum into a varying background wind field that generates the occurrence of frequent critical levels.

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Cameron Bertossa
,
Peter Hitchcock
,
Arthur DeGaetano
, and
Riwal Plougonven

Abstract

A previous study has shown that a large portion of subseasonal-to-seasonal European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) ensemble forecasts for 2-m temperature exhibit properties of univariate bimodality, in some locations occurring in over 30% of forecasts. This study introduces a novel methodology to identify “bimodal events,” meteorological events that trigger the development of spatially and temporally correlated bimodality in forecasts. Understanding such events not only provides insight into the dynamics of the meteorological phenomena causing bimodal events, but also indicates when Gaussian interpretations of forecasts are detrimental. The methodology that is developed allows one to systematically characterize the spatial and temporal scales of the derived bimodal events, and thus uncover the flow states that lead to them. Three distinct regions that exhibit high occurrence rates of bimodality are studied: one in South America, one in the Southern Ocean, and one in the North Atlantic. It is found that bimodal events in each region appear to be triggered by synoptic processes interacting with geographically specific processes: in South America, bimodality is often related to Andes blocking events; in the Southern Ocean, bimodality is often related to an atmospheric Rossby wave interacting with sea ice; and in the North Atlantic, bimodality is often connected to the displacement of a persistent subtropical high. This common pattern of large-scale circulation anomalies interacting with local boundary conditions suggests that any deeper dynamical understanding of these events should incorporate such interactions.

Significance Statement

Repeatedly running weather forecasts with slightly different initial conditions provides some information on the confidence of a forecast. Occasionally, these sets of forecasts spread into two distinct groups or modes, making the “typical” interpretation of confidence inappropriate. What leads to such a behavior has yet to be fully understood. This study contributes to our understanding of this process by presenting a methodology that identifies coherent bimodal events in forecasts of near-surface air temperature. Applying this methodology to a database of such forecasts reveals several key dynamical features that can lead to bimodal events. Exploring and understanding these features is crucial for saving forecasters’ resources, creating more skillful forecasts for the public, and improving our understanding of the weather.

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Valérian Jewtoukoff
,
Riwal Plougonven
,
Albert Hertzog
,
Chris Snyder
, and
Glen Romine

Abstract

Safety compliance issues for operational studies of the atmosphere with balloons require quantifying risks associated with descent and developing strategies to reduce the uncertainties at the location of the touchdown point. Trajectory forecasts are typically computed from weather forecasts produced by an operational center, for example, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. This study uses past experiments to investigate strategies for improving these forecasts. Trajectories for open stratospheric balloon (OSB) short-term flights are computed using mesoscale simulations with the Weather and Research Forecasting (WRF) Model initialized with ECMWF operational forecasts and are assimilated with radio soundings using the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART) ensemble Kalman filter, for three case studies during the Strapolété 2009 campaign in Sweden. The results are very variable: in one case, the error in the final simulated position is reduced by 90% relative to the forecast using the ECMWF winds, while in another case the forecast is hardly improved. Nonetheless, they reveal the main source of forecasting error: during the ceiling phase, errors due to unresolved inertia–gravity waves accumulate as the balloon continuously experiences one phase of a wave for a few hours, whereas they essentially average out during the ascent and descent phases, when the balloon rapidly samples through whole wave packets. This sensitivity to wind during the ceiling phase raises issues regarding the feasibility of such forecasts and the observations that would be needed. The ensemble spread is also analyzed, and it is noted that the initial ensemble perturbations should probably be improved in the future for better forecasts.

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Chris Snyder
,
David J. Muraki
,
Riwal Plougonven
, and
Fuqing Zhang

Abstract

Vortex dipoles provide a simple representation of localized atmospheric jets. Numerical simulations of a synoptic-scale dipole in surface potential temperature are considered in a rotating, stratified fluid with approximately uniform potential vorticity. Following an initial period of adjustment, the dipole propagates along a slightly curved trajectory at a nearly steady rate and with a nearly fixed structure for more than 50 days. Downstream from the jet maximum, the flow also contains smaller-scale, upward-propagating inertia–gravity waves that are embedded within and stationary relative to the dipole. The waves form elongated bows along the leading edge of the dipole. Consistent with propagation in horizontal deformation and vertical shear, the waves’ horizontal scale shrinks and the vertical slope varies as they approach the leading stagnation point in the dipole’s flow. Because the waves persist for tens of days despite explicit dissipation in the numerical model that would otherwise damp the waves on a time scale of a few hours, they must be inherent features of the dipole itself, rather than remnants of imbalances in the initial conditions. The wave amplitude varies with the strength of the dipole, with waves becoming obvious once the maximum vertical vorticity in the dipole is roughly half the Coriolis parameter. Possible mechanisms for the wave generation are spontaneous wave emission and the instability of the underlying balanced dipole.

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Mohammad Mirzaei
,
Ali R. Mohebalhojeh
,
Christoph Zülicke
, and
Riwal Plougonven

Abstract

Quantification of inertia–gravity waves (IGWs) generated by upper-level jet–surface front systems and their parameterization in global models of the atmosphere relies on suitable methods to estimate the strength of IGWs. A harmonic divergence analysis (HDA) that has been previously employed for quantification of IGWs combines wave properties from linear dynamics with a sophisticated statistical analysis to provide such estimates. A question of fundamental importance that arises is how the measures of IGW activity provided by the HDA are related to the measures coming from the wave–vortex decomposition (WVD) methods. The question is addressed by employing the nonlinear balance relations of the first-order δγ, the Bolin–Charney, and the first- to third-order Rossby number expansion to carry out WVD. The global kinetic energy of IGWs given by the HDA and WVD are compared in numerical simulations of moist baroclinic waves by the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model in a channel on the f plane. The estimates of the HDA are found to be 2–3 times smaller than those of the optimal WVD. This is in part due to the absence of a well-defined scale separation between the waves and vortical flows, the IGW estimates by the HDA capturing only the dominant wave packets and with limited scales. It is also shown that the difference between the HDA and WVD estimates is related to the width of the IGW spectrum.

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