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Takeaki Sampe, Hisashi Nakamura, Atsushi Goto, and Wataru Ohfuchi

Abstract

In a set of idealized “aquaplanet” experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model to which zonally uniform sea surface temperature (SST) is prescribed globally as the lower boundary condition, an assessment is made of the potential influence of the frontal SST gradient upon the formation of a storm track and an eddy-driven midlatitude polar front jet (PFJ), and on its robustness against changes in the intensity of a subtropical jet (STJ). In experiments with the frontal midlatitude SST gradient as that observed in the southwestern Indian Ocean, transient eddy activity in each of the winter and summer hemispheres is organized into a deep storm track along the SST front with an enhanced low-level baroclinic growth of eddies. In the winter hemisphere, another storm track forms just below the intense STJ core, but it is confined to the upper troposphere with no significant baroclinic eddy growth underneath. The near-surface westerlies are strongest near the midlatitude SST front as observed, consistent with westerly momentum transport associated with baroclinic eddy growth. The sharp poleward decline in the surface sensible heat flux across the SST frontal zone sustains strong near-surface baroclinicity against the relaxing effect by vigorous poleward eddy heat transport. Elimination of the midlatitude frontal SST gradient yields marked decreases in the activity of eddies and their transport of angular momentum into midlatitudes, in association with equatorward shifts of the PFJ-associated low-level westerlies and a subtropical high pressure belt, especially in the summer hemisphere. These impacts of the midlatitude frontal SST gradient are found to be robust against modest changes in the STJ intensity as observed in its interannual variability, suggesting the potential importance of midlatitude atmosphere–ocean interaction in shaping the tropospheric general circulation.

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