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David W. J. Thompson
and
Thomas Birner

Abstract

Previous studies have demonstrated the key role of baroclinicity and thus the isentropic slope in determining the climatological-mean distribution of the tropospheric eddy fluxes of heat. Here the authors examine the role of variability in the isentropic slope in driving variations in the tropospheric eddy fluxes of heat about their long-term mean during Northern Hemisphere winter.

On month-to-month time scales, the lower-tropospheric isentropic slope and eddy fluxes of heat are not significantly correlated when all eddies are included in the analysis. But the isentropic slope and heat fluxes are closely linked when the data are filtered to isolate the fluxes due to synoptic (<10 days) and low-frequency (>10 days) time scale waves. Anomalously steep isentropic slopes are characterized by anomalously poleward heat fluxes by synoptic eddies but anomalously equatorward heat fluxes by low-frequency eddies. Lag regressions based on daily data reveal that 1) variations in the isentropic slope precede by several days variations in the heat fluxes by synoptic eddies and 2) variations in the heat fluxes due to both synoptic and low-frequency eddies precede by several days similarly signed variations in the momentum flux at the tropopause level.

The results suggest that seemingly modest changes in the tropospheric isentropic slope drive significant changes in the synoptic eddy heat fluxes and thus in the generation of baroclinic wave activity in the lower troposphere. The linkages have implications for understanding the extratropical tropospheric eddy response to a range of processes, including anthropogenic climate change, stratospheric variability, and extratropical sea surface temperature anomalies.

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David W. J. Thompson
and
Ying Li

Abstract

Large-scale variability in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) circulation can be viewed in the context of three primary types of structures: 1) teleconnection patterns, 2) a barotropic annular mode, and 3) a baroclinic annular mode. The barotropic annular mode corresponds to the northern annular mode (NAM) and has been examined extensively in previous research. Here the authors examine the spatial structure and time-dependent behavior of the NH baroclinic annular mode (NBAM).

The NAM and NBAM have very different signatures in large-scale NH climate variability. The NAM emerges as the leading principal component (PC) time series of the zonal-mean kinetic energy. It dominates the variance in the wave fluxes of momentum, projects weakly onto the eddy kinetic energy and wave fluxes of heat, and can be modeled as Gaussian red noise with a time scale of ~10 days. In contrast, the NBAM emerges as the leading PC time series of the eddy kinetic energy. It is most clearly identified when the planetary-scale waves are filtered from the data, dominates the variance in the synoptic-scale eddy kinetic energy and wave fluxes of heat, and has a relatively weak signature in the zonal-mean kinetic energy and the wave fluxes of momentum. The NBAM is marked by weak but significant enhanced spectral power on time scales of ~20–25 days.

The NBAM is remarkably similar to its Southern Hemisphere counterpart despite the pronounced interhemispheric differences in orography and land–sea contrasts.

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Kevin M. Grise
and
David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Equatorial planetary waves are a fundamental component of the tropical climate system. Previous studies have examined their structure in the climatological-mean circulation, their role in the climatological-mean momentum balance of the tropics, and their contribution to the climatological-mean upwelling across the tropical tropopause. In this study, the authors focus on the contribution of the equatorial planetary waves to variability in the tropical circulation about its climatological-mean state.

The equatorial planetary waves that dominate the climatological mean exhibit considerable variability on intraseasonal and interannual time scales. Variability in the amplitude of the equatorial planetary waves is associated with a distinct pattern of equatorially symmetric climate variability that also emerges from empirical orthogonal function analysis of various tropical dynamical fields. Variability in the equatorial planetary waves is characterized by variations in 1) convection in the deep tropics, 2) eddy momentum flux convergence and zonal-mean zonal wind in the tropical upper troposphere, 3) the mean meridional circulation of the tropical and subtropical troposphere, 4) temperatures in the tropical lower stratosphere and subtropical troposphere of both hemispheres, and 5) the amplitude of the upper tropospheric anticyclones over the western tropical Pacific Ocean.

It is argued that pulsation of the equatorial planetary waves provides an alternative framework for interpreting the response of the tropical circulation to a range of climate phenomena. Pulsation of the equatorial planetary waves is apparent in association with opposing phases of El Niño–Southern Oscillation and select phases of the Madden–Julian oscillation. Pulsation of the equatorial planetary waves also contributes to variability in measures of the width of the tropical belt.

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David W. J. Thompson
and
Jonathan D. Woodworth

Abstract

The leading patterns of large-scale climate variability in the Southern Hemisphere are examined in the context of extratropical kinetic energy. It is argued that variability in the Southern Hemisphere extratropical flow can be viewed in the context of two distinct and largely independent structures, both of which exhibit a high degree of annularity: 1) a barotropic structure that dominates the variance in the zonal-mean kinetic energy and 2) a baroclinic structure that dominates the variance in the eddy kinetic energy. The former structure corresponds to the southern annular mode (SAM) and has been extensively examined in the literature. The latter structure emerges as the leading principal component time series of eddy kinetic energy and has received seemingly little attention in previous work.

The two structures play very different roles in cycling energy through the extratropical troposphere. The SAM is associated primarily with variability in the meridional propagation of wave activity, has a surprisingly weak signature in the eddy fluxes of heat, and can be modeled as Gaussian red noise with an e-folding time scale of approximately 10 days. The baroclinic annular structure is associated primarily with variations in the amplitude of vertically propagating waves, has a very weak signature in the wave fluxes of momentum, and exhibits marked quasi periodicity on time scales of approximately 25–30 days. Implications for large-scale climate variability are discussed.

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Kevin M. Grise
and
David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Temperatures in the tropical tropopause layer (TTL) play an important role in stratosphere–troposphere exchange and in the formation and maintenance of thin cirrus clouds. Many previous studies have examined the contributions of extratropical and equatorial waves to the TTL using coarse-vertical-resolution satellite and reanalysis data. In this study, the authors provide new insight into the role of extratropical and equatorial waves in the TTL using high-vertical-resolution GPS radio occultation data.

The results examine the influence of four different wave forcings on the TTL: extratropical waves that propagate vertically into the stratosphere, extratropical waves that propagate meridionally into the subtropical stratosphere, extratropical waves that propagate meridionally into the subtropical troposphere, and the equatorial planetary waves. The vertically and meridionally propagating extratropical stratospheric waves are associated with deep, zonally symmetric temperature anomalies that extend and amplify with height throughout the lower-to-middle tropical stratosphere. In contrast, the extratropical tropospheric waves and the equatorial planetary waves are associated with tropical temperature anomalies that are confined below 20-km altitude. The equatorial planetary waves dominate the zonally asymmetric component of the TTL temperature field, and both the equatorial planetary waves and the extratropical tropospheric waves are linked to large temperature variability in a 1–2-km-deep layer near the tropical tropopause. The fine vertical scale of the TTL temperature features associated with the equatorial planetary waves and the extratropical tropospheric waves is only readily apparent in high-vertical-resolution data.

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Elizabeth A. Barnes
and
David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Do barotropic or baroclinic eddy feedbacks dominate the atmospheric circulation response to mechanical forcing?

To address this question, barotropic torques are imposed over a range of latitudes in both an idealized general circulation model (GCM) and a barotropic model. The GCM includes both baroclinic and barotropic feedbacks. The barotropic model is run in two configurations: 1) only barotropic feedbacks are present and 2) a baroclinic-like feedback is added by allowing the stirring region to move with the jet. The relationship between the latitude of the forcing and the response is examined by systematically shifting the torques between the tropics and the pole. The importance of the mean state is investigated by varying the position of the control jet.

Five main findings are presented: 1) Barotropic feedbacks alone are capable of producing the structure of the GCM response to mechanical forcing but are not capable of accounting for its full magnitude. 2) Baroclinic processes generally increase the magnitude of the response but do not strongly influence its structure. 3) For a given forcing, the largest response in all model configurations occurs 5°–10° poleward of the forcing latitude. 4) The maximum response occurs when the forcing is located approximately 10° poleward of the control jet. 5) The circulation response weakens as the mean jet is found at higher latitudes in all model configurations.

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Edwin P. Gerber
and
David W. J. Thompson

Abstract

Annular patterns with a high degree of zonal symmetry play a prominent role in the natural variability of the atmospheric circulation and its response to external forcing. But despite their apparent importance for understanding climate variability, the processes that give rise to their marked zonally symmetric components remain largely unclear. Here the authors use simple stochastic models in conjunction with an atmospheric model and observational analyses to explore the conditions under which annular patterns arise from empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis of the flow. The results indicate that annular patterns arise not only from zonally coherent fluctuations in the circulation (i.e., “dynamical annularity”) but also from zonally symmetric statistics of the circulation in the absence of zonally coherent fluctuations (i.e., “statistical annularity”). It is argued that the distinction between dynamical and statistical annular patterns derived from EOF analysis can be inferred from the associated variance spectrum: larger differences in the variance explained by an annular EOF and successive EOFs generally indicate underlying dynamical annularity. The authors provide a simple recipe for assessing the conditions that give rise to annular EOFs of the circulation. When applied to numerical models, the recipe indicates dynamical annularity in parameter regimes with strong feedbacks between eddies and the mean flow. When applied to observations, the recipe indicates that annular EOFs generally derive from statistical annularity of the flow in the midlatitude troposphere but from dynamical annularity in both the stratosphere and the mid–high-latitude Southern Hemisphere troposphere.

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Amy H. Butler
,
David W. J. Thompson
, and
Thomas Birner

Abstract

Climate change experiments run on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)–class numerical models consistently suggest that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases will lead to a poleward shift of the midlatitude jets and their associated eddy fluxes of heat and potential vorticity (PV). Experiments run on idealized models suggest that the poleward contraction of the jets can be traced to the effects of increased latent heating and thus locally enhanced warming in the tropical troposphere. Here the authors provide new insights into the dynamics of the circulation response to tropical tropospheric heating using transient experiments in an idealized general circulation model.

It is argued that the response of the midlatitude jets to tropical heating is driven fundamentally by 1) the projection of the heating onto the meridional slope of the lower tropospheric isentropic surfaces, and 2) a diffusive model of the eddy fluxes of heat and PV. In the lower and middle troposphere, regions where the meridional slope of the isentropes (i.e., the baroclinicity) is increased are marked by anomalously poleward eddy fluxes of heat, and vice versa. Near the tropopause, regions where the meridional gradients in PV are increased are characterized by anomalously equatorward eddy fluxes of PV, and vice versa. The barotropic component of the response is shown to be closely approximated by the changes in the lower-level heat fluxes. As such, the changes in the eddy fluxes of momentum near the tropopause appear to be driven primarily by the changes in wave generation in the lower troposphere.

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David W. J. Thompson
,
Mark P. Baldwin
, and
Susan Solomon

Abstract

This study examines the temporal evolution of the tropospheric circulation following large-amplitude variations in the strength of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) stratospheric polar vortex in data from 1979 to 2001 and following the SH sudden stratospheric warming of 2002. In both cases, anomalies in the strength of the SH stratospheric polar vortex precede similarly signed anomalies in the tropospheric circulation that persist for more than 2 months. The SH tropospheric circulation anomalies reflect a bias in the polarity of the SH annular mode (SAM), a large-scale pattern of climate variability characterized by fluctuations in the strength of the SH circumpolar flow. Consistent with the climate impacts of the SAM, variations in the stratospheric polar vortex are also followed by coherent changes in surface temperatures throughout much of Antarctica. The results add to a growing body of evidence that suggests that stratospheric variability plays an important role in driving climate variability at Earth’s surface on a range of time scales.

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David W. J. Thompson
,
Jason C. Furtado
, and
Theodore G. Shepherd

Abstract

Observational and numerical evidence suggest that variability in the extratropical stratospheric circulation has a demonstrable impact on tropospheric variability on intraseasonal time scales. In this study, it is demonstrated that the amplitude of the observed tropospheric response to vacillations in the stratospheric flow is quantitatively similar to the zonal-mean balanced response to the anomalous wave forcing at stratospheric levels. It is further demonstrated that the persistence of the tropospheric response is consistent with the impact of anomalous diabatic heating in the polar stratosphere as stratospheric temperatures relax to climatology.

The results contradict previous studies that suggest that variations in stratospheric wave drag are too weak to account for the attendant changes in the tropospheric flow. However, the results also reveal that stratospheric processes alone cannot account for the observed meridional redistribution of momentum within the troposphere.

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