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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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Volkmar Wirth
,
Christof Appenzeller
, and
Martin Juckes

Abstract

The quasi-horizontal roll-up of unstable stratospheric intrusions into isolated vortices is known to result in specific structures on satellite water vapor images that are characterized by intermingling dark and light filaments. The current paper investigates how these features are generated and how they relate to partly similar features found on concurrent maps of the tropopause height or potential vorticity (PV). The roll-up of a stratospheric intrusion is simulated numerically with an idealized quasigeostrophic model, which focuses on the dynamics induced by anomalies in the height of the tropopause. The upper-tropospheric adiabatic vertical wind is calculated explicitly and is used to simulate water vapor images in the model. These images show qualitatively the same characteristic features as observed. They are generated through a combination of horizontal advection of initial moisture anomalies and the creation of additional moisture anomalies resulting from the upper-tropospheric vertical air motion. The latter is, in turn, induced by the quasi-horizontal motion of the tropopause anomaly. It is suggested that a substantial portion of the spiral-like structures on the water vapor images is likely to reflect the vertical wind induced by the evolution of the intrusion itself. When the tropopause is defined through a fairly low value of PV, it may acquire similar spiraling structures, as it is being advected almost like a passive tracer. On the other hand, for the dynamically active core part of the intrusion, which is located at higher values of PV, one may expect an evolution leading to more compact vortex cores and less structure overall.

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Günther Zängl
,
Joseph Egger
, and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

The Penn State–NCAR mesoscale model MM5 is used to simulate and better understand the wind observations in the Kali Gandaki Valley reported in the first part of this paper. The Kali Gandaki River originates in Nepal near Tibet, flows southward through the Mustang Basin, crosses the Himalayas in a gorge, and descends to the lowlands of Nepal. Extremely strong diurnal upvalley flow in the gorge and the basin alternates with rather weak drainage flow in the night. As proposed in Part I, the Mustang Basin and the Tibetan Plateau can be considered as an elevated heat source driving the upvalley flow during the day. However, the extreme strength of the diurnal upvalley winds and the order-of-magnitude asymmetry between day and night cannot be explained with a simple plateau circulation theory.

The model is successful in simulating almost all aspects of the observations. The simulations strongly suggest that the observed acceleration of the upvalley winds near the entrance to the Mustang Basin is linked to a supercritical-like flow pattern. Gravity waves induced by the ridges protruding into the valley appear to contribute to this flow structure. Humidity is found to be essential for simulating the strength of the observed day–night asymmetry because of its impact on the boundary layer structure above the Himalayan foothills, especially due to the evaporation of rain. In addition, advection of relatively stable air from the foreland into the basin is important for the formation of the gravity waves and also explains part of the asymmetry. The Plateau of Tibet appears to have a small but positive impact on the flow speeds in the valley.

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Paolo Ghinassi
,
Georgios Fragkoulidis
, and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

Upper-tropospheric Rossby wave packets (RWPs) are important dynamical features, because they are often associated with weather systems and sometimes act as precursors to high-impact weather. The present work introduces a novel diagnostic to identify RWPs and to quantify their amplitude. It is based on the local finite-amplitude wave activity (LWA) of Huang and Nakamura, which is generalized to the primitive equations in isentropic coordinates. The new diagnostic is applied to a specific episode containing large-amplitude RWPs and compared with a more traditional diagnostic based on the envelope of the meridional wind. In this case, LWA provides a more coherent picture of the RWPs and their zonal propagation. This difference in performance is demonstrated more explicitly in the framework of an idealized barotropic model simulation, where LWA is able to follow an RWP into its fully nonlinear stage, including cutoff formation and wave breaking, while the envelope diagnostic yields reduced amplitudes in such situations.

Open access
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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Joseph Egger
,
Sapta Bajrachaya
,
Ute Egger
,
Richard Heinrich
,
Joachim Reuder
,
Pancha Shayka
,
Hilbert Wendt
, and
Volkmar Wirth

Abstract

The diurnal wind system of the Kali Gandaki Valley in Nepal was explored in September and October 1998 in a field campaign using pilot balloons as the main observational tool. This valley connects the Plateau of Tibet with the Indian plains. The river crosses the Himalayas forming the deepest valley on Earth. Intense upvalley winds blow up this valley during the day. Observations were made along the river at various spots selected between the exit point from the Himalayas and the source close to the Plateau of Tibet. The strongest upvalley winds were found between Marpha and Chuksang with typical speeds of 15–20 m s−1. The upvalley wind sets in first at the ground but an upvalley wind layer of 1000–2000-m depth forms quickly after the onset. This deep inflow layer persists up to Lo Manthang, a town located a few kilometers south of the Plateau of Tibet. Deceleration in the late afternoon and evening also appears to commence near the ground. Weak drainage flow forms late in the night. The causes of these phenomena are discussed.

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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
Marlene Baumgart
,
Paolo Ghinassi
,
Volkmar Wirth
,
Tobias Selz
,
George C. Craig
, and
Michael Riemer

Abstract

Two diagnostics based on potential vorticity and the envelope of Rossby waves are used to investigate upscale error growth from a dynamical perspective. The diagnostics are applied to several cases of global, real-case ensemble simulations, in which the only difference between the ensemble members lies in the random seed of the stochastic convection scheme. Based on a tendency equation for the enstrophy error, the relative importance of individual processes to enstrophy-error growth near the tropopause is quantified. After the enstrophy error is saturated on the synoptic scale, the envelope diagnostic is used to investigate error growth up to the planetary scale. The diagnostics reveal distinct stages of the error growth: in the first 12 h, error growth is dominated by differences in the convection scheme. Differences in the upper-tropospheric divergent wind then project these diabatic errors into the tropopause region (day 0.5–2). The subsequent error growth (day 2–14.5) is governed by differences in the nonlinear near-tropopause dynamics. A fourth stage of the error growth is found up to 18 days when the envelope diagnostic indicates error growth from the synoptic up to the planetary scale. Previous ideas of the multiscale nature of upscale error growth are confirmed in general. However, a novel interpretation of the governing processes is provided. The insight obtained into the dynamics of upscale error growth may help to design representations of uncertainty in operational forecast models and to identify atmospheric conditions that are intrinsically prone to large error amplification.

Open access