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  • Author or Editor: Volkmar Wirth x
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Gabriel Wolf
and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

Upper-tropospheric Rossby wave packets have received increased attention recently. In most previous studies wave packets have been detected by computing the envelope of the meridional wind field using either complex demodulation or a Hilbert transform. The latter requires fewer choices to be made and appears, therefore, preferable. However, the Hilbert transform is fraught with a significant problem, namely, a tendency that fragments a single wave packet into several parts. The problem arises because Rossby wave packets show substantial deviations from the almost-plane wave paradigm, a feature that is well represented by semigeostrophic dynamics. As a consequence, higher harmonics interfere with the reconstruction of the wave envelope leading to undesirable wiggles. A possible cure lies in additional smoothing (e.g., by means of a filter) or resorting to complex demodulation (which implies smoothing, too). Another possibility, which does not imply any smoothing, lies in applying the Hilbert transform in semigeostrophic coordinate space. It turns out beneficial to exclude planetary-scale wavenumbers from this transformation in order to avoid problems in cases when the wave packet travels on a low wavenumber quasi-stationary background flow.

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Gabriel Wolf
and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

It has been suggested that upper-tropospheric Rossby wave packets propagating along the midlatitude waveguide may play a role for triggering severe weather. This motivates the search for robust methods to detect and track Rossby wave packets and to diagnose their properties. In the framework of several observed cases, this paper compares different methods that have been proposed for these tasks, with an emphasis on horizontal propagation and on a particular formulation of a wave activity flux previously suggested by Takaya and Nakamura. The utility of this flux is compromised by the semigeostrophic nature of upper-tropospheric Rossby waves, but this problem can partly be overcome by a semigeostrophic coordinate transformation. The wave activity flux allows one to obtain information from a single snapshot about the meridional propagation, in particular propagation from or into polar and subtropical latitudes, as well as about the onset of wave breaking. This helps to clarify the dynamics of individual wave packets in cases where other, more conventional methods provide ambiguous or even misleading information. In some cases, the “true dynamics” of the Rossby wave packet turns out to be more complex than apparent from the more conventional diagnostics, and this may have important implications for the predictability of the wave packet.

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Volkmar Wirth
,
Michael Riemer
,
Edmund K. M. Chang
, and
Olivia Martius

Abstract

Rossby wave packets (RWPs) are Rossby waves for which the amplitude has a local maximum and decays to smaller values at larger distances. This review focuses on upper-tropospheric transient RWPs along the midlatitude jet stream. Their central characteristic is the propagation in the zonal direction as well as the transfer of wave energy from one individual trough or ridge to its downstream neighbor, a process called “downstream development.” These RWPs sometimes act as long-range precursors to extreme weather and presumably have an influence on the predictability of midlatitude weather systems. The paper reviews research progress in this area with an emphasis on developments during the last 15 years. The current state of knowledge is summarized including a discussion of the RWP life cycle as well as Rossby waveguides. Recent progress in the dynamical understanding of RWPs has been based, in part, on the development of diagnostic methods. These methods include algorithms to identify and track RWPs in an automated manner, which can be used to extract the climatological properties of RWPs. RWP dynamics have traditionally been investigated using the eddy kinetic energy framework; alternative approaches based on potential vorticity and wave activity fluxes are discussed and put into perspective with the more traditional approach. The different diagnostics are compared to each other and the strengths and weaknesses of individual methods are highlighted. A recurrent theme is the role of diabatic processes, which can be a source for forecast errors. Finally, the paper points to important open research questions and suggests avenues for future research.

Open access
Marlene Baumgart
,
Michael Riemer
,
Volkmar Wirth
,
Franziska Teubler
, and
Simon T. K. Lang

Abstract

Synoptic-scale error growth near the tropopause is investigated from a process-based perspective. Following previous work, a potential vorticity (PV) error tendency equation is derived and partitioned into individual contributions to yield insight into the processes governing error growth near the tropopause. Importantly, we focus here on the further amplification of preexisting errors and not on the origin of errors. The individual contributions to error growth are quantified in a case study of a 6-day forecast. In this case, localized mesoscale error maxima have formed by forecast day 2. These maxima organize into a wavelike pattern and reach the Rossby wave scale around forecast day 6. Error growth occurs most prominently within the Atlantic and Pacific Rossby wave patterns. In our PV framework, the error growth is dominated by the contribution of upper-level, near-tropopause PV anomalies (near-tropopause dynamics). Significant contributions from upper-tropospheric divergent flow (prominently associated with latent heat release below) and lower-tropospheric anomalies [tropospheric-deep (i.e., baroclinic) interaction] are associated with a misrepresentation of the surface cyclone development in the forecast. These contributions are, in general, of smaller importance to error growth than near-tropopause dynamics. This result indicates that the mesoscale errors generated near the tropopause do not primarily project on differences in the subsequent baroclinic growth, but instead directly project on the tropopause evolution and amplify because of differences in the nonlinear Rossby wave dynamics.

Open access