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Gang Chen and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

An idealized atmospheric model is employed to quantify the strength of the eddy feedback and the persistence of the zonal index. The strength of the surface frictional damping on the zonal index is varied, and an external zonal momentum forcing is included to compensate for the momentum change associated with the friction change such that the climatological jet latitude and shape are unchanged.

The model can generate a nearly identical climatology and leading mode of the zonal mean zonal wind for different frictional damping rates, except when the jet undergoes a regime transition. For those experiments without a regime transition, as the surface friction is increased, the strength of eddy feedback is enhanced but the zonal index becomes less persistent. A simple feedback model suggests that the e-folding decorrelation time scale of the zonal index can be determined by the frictional damping rate and the strength of eddy feedback. The strength of eddy feedback is found to be related to the instantaneous vertical wind shears near the surface controlled by the frictional damping. Furthermore, the climate response to an external zonal torque is proportional to the decorrelation time scale, although the simple prediction used here overestimates the climate response by a factor of 2.

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Mototaka Nakamura and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

The relationship between the direction of the breaking of Rossby waves on an isolated jet and the cross-jet asymmetry of the flow is investigated. The flow structure of a circular jet is, under most circumstances, such that waves break uniquely outward, although the authors contrive a flow on which breaking is uniquely inward. The influence on the direction of the breaking of the location of critical lines in the undisturbed flow is discussed. On a straight jet with asymmetric shear, there are three wave amplitude regimes: weak waves do not break; waves of moderate amplitude break only toward the closer critical line; and waves of sufficiently large amplitude break both ways.

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R. Alan Plumb and Raffaele Ferrari

Abstract

A theoretical formalism for nongeostrophic eddy transport in zonal-mean flows, using a transformed Eulerian-mean (TEM) approach in z coordinates, is discussed. By using Andrews and McIntyre’s coordinate-independent definition of the “quasi-Stokes streamfunction,” it is argued that the surface boundary condition can be dealt with more readily than when the widely used quasigeostrophic definition is adopted. Along with the “residual mean circulation,” the concept of “residual eddy flux” arises naturally within the TEM framework, and it is argued that it is this residual eddy flux, and not the “raw” eddy flux, that might reasonably be expected to be downgradient. This distinction is shown to be especially important for Ertel potential vorticity (PV). The authors show how a closed set of transformed mean equations can be generated, and how the eddy forcing appears in the TEM momentum equations. Under adiabatic conditions, the “eddy drag” is just proportional to the residual eddy flux of PV along the mean isopycnals; in the diabatic layer close to the surface, it is more complicated, but becomes very simple for small Rossby number (without any assumption of small isopycnal slope).

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R. Alan Plumb and Janusz Eluszkiewicz

Abstract

Recent advances in our understanding of the dynamics of the stratospheric circulation have led to the concepts of “downward control” and the “extratropical pump.” However, under the assumptions on which these concepts are based, midlatitude wave driving cannot explain the fact that mean stratospheric upwelling is located in the Tropics. Nevertheless, using a nonlinear two-dimensional model it is shown here that a steady and (in the lower stratosphere) linear circulation with a qualitatively reasonable upwelling can be produced, provided the wave drag extends to within about 20° of the equator. In a linear analysis of the problem, it is shown that the effects of weak model viscosity (some 50 times weaker than thermal relaxation) are crucial in permitting flow across angular momentum contours within a tropical boundary layer whose width is of order L R P 1/4, where L R is the equatorial Rossby radius and P a Prandtl number (the ratio of radiative to viscous relaxation times). Provided the wave drag extends into this boundary layer, upwelling is distributed across the Tropics. These considerations put limits on the generality of the concepts of the extratropical pump and downward control and, inter alia, open the possibility that diabatic heating alone can drive a meridional circulation within the Tropics. On the basis of simple representations of wave drag and diabatic heating in a nonlinear, zonally symmetric model, it is found that, although driving by wave drag is the dominant mechanism, stratospheric (and perhaps tropospheric) heating may make a significant contribution to the net upwelling and may help explain its structure. Just what, in reality, might play a role analogous to that of viscosity in the model is an open question.

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Nikki C. Privé and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

The roles of eddies and forcing asymmetry in the dynamics of the large-scale monsoon circulation are investigated with a general circulation model. The net impact of eddies is found to be a slight weakening of the zonal mean monsoon circulation. The eddies strongly impact the momentum budget of the circulation, but the qualitative behavior of the monsoon flow is not substantially altered. The introduction of asymmetric forcing reveals the limitations of axisymmetric studies in representing the fully three-dimensional monsoon. Advection of low subcloud moist static energy air from the midlatitude oceans is seen to strongly impact the subcloud moist static energy budget in the continental subtropics, limiting the poleward extent of the monsoon. The advection of low moist static energy air must be blocked by orography, or the source of low moist static energy air must be removed, in order to induce strong precipitation over the subtropical landmass. An equatorial SST gradient is needed to induce a cross-equatorial meridional monsoon circulation. The location of the maximum subcloud moist static energy remains a good indicator for the limit of the monsoon.

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Jelena M. Popovic and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

The authors investigate the transient behavior of the Asian monsoon anticyclone in the summertime upper troposphere for the four northern summers 1987–90. The evolution of potential vorticity near the tropopause shows the development of westward migrating anticyclones breaking off from the main anticyclone a few times each summer. These disturbances are relatively shallow, being confined to the upper troposphere.

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Nikki C. Privé and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

The applicability of axisymmetric theory of angular momentum conserving circulations to the large-scale steady monsoon is studied in a general circulation model with idealized representations of continental geometry and simple physics. Results from an aquaplanet setup with localized subtropical forcing are compared with a continental case. It is found that the meridional circulation that develops is close to angular momentum conserving for cross-equatorial circulation cells, both in the aquaplanet and in the continental cases. The equator proves to be a substantial barrier to boundary layer meridional flow; flow into the summer hemisphere from the winter hemisphere tends to occur in the free troposphere rather than in the boundary layer. A theory is proposed to explain the location of the monsoon; assuming quasiequilibrium, the poleward boundary of the monsoon circulation is collocated with the maximum in subcloud moist static energy, with the monsoon rains occurring near and slightly equatorward of this maximum. The model results support this theory of monsoon location, and it is found that the subcloud moist static energy distribution is determined by a balance between surface forcing and advection by the large-scale flow.

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L. M. Polvani and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

The behavior of an isolated vortex perturbed by topographically forced Rossby waves is studied using the method of Contour Dynamics. For a single-contour vortex a distinct forcing threshold exists above which the wave breaks in a dynamically significant way, leading to a disruption of the vortex. This breaking is distinguished from the process of weak filamentary breaking described by Dritschel and classified here as microbreaking; the latter occurs in nondivergent flow even at very small forcing amplitudes but does not affect the vortex in a substantial manner. In cases with finite Rossby deformation radius (comparable with the vortex radius) neither breaking nor microbreaking occurs below the forcing threshold. In common with previous studies using high-resolution spectral models, the vortex is not diluted by intrusion of outside air, except during remerger with a secondary vortex shed previously from the main vortex during a breaking event. The kinematics of the breaking process and of the vortex interior and the morphology of material ejected from the vortex are described. When the Rossby radius is finite there is substantial mixing in the deep interior of the vortex, even when the vortex is only mildly disturbed. Implications for the stratospheric polar vortex are discussed.

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R. Alan Plumb and Arthur Y. Hou

Abstract

We consider the response of a zonally symmetric atmosphere to a thermal forcing that is localized in the subtropics. Specifically, the equilibrium temperature distribution has a local subtropical peak and is flat elsewhere, including at the equator. On the basis of inviscid steady-state theory, it is argued that the response to such forcing is one of two distinct types. Below a threshold forcing the atmosphere adopts a steady state of thermal equilibrium with no meridional flow. With supercritical forcing, this state breaks down and a strong meridional circulation is predicted. The threshold forcing value is that at which the absolute vorticity of the zonal flow (in gradient balance with the equilibrium temperatures) vanishes at the upper boundary. These inviscid predictions are tested in a zonally symmetric numerical model; while the model viscosity shifts the threshold and otherwise modifies the response, the threshold is clearly evident in the model behavior.

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Eric M. Leibensperger and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

Large-scale chaotic stirring stretches tracer contours into filaments containing fine spatial scales until small-scale diffusive processes dissipate tracer variance. Quantification of tracer transport in such circumstances is possible through the use of Nakamura’s “effective diffusivity” diagnostics, which make clear the controlling role of stirring, rather than small-scale dissipation, in large-scale transport. Existing theory of effective diffusivity is based on a layerwise approach, in which tracer variance is presumed to cascade via horizontal (or isentropic) stirring to small-scale horizontal (or isentropic) diffusion. In most geophysical flows of interest, however, baroclinic shear will tilt stirred filamentary structures into almost-horizontal sheets, in which case the thinnest dimension is vertical; accordingly, it will be vertical (or diabatic) diffusion that provides the ultimate dissipation of variance. Here new theoretical developments define effective diffusivity in such flows. In the frequently relevant case of isentropic stirring, it is shown that the theory is, in most respects, unchanged from the case of isentropic diffusion: effective isentropic diffusivity is controlled by the isentropic stirring and, it is argued, largely independent of the nature of the ultimate dissipation. Diabatic diffusion is not amplified by the stirring, although it can be modestly enhanced through eddy modulation of static stability. These characteristics are illustrated in numerical simulations of a stratospheric flow; in regions of strong stirring, the theoretical predictions are well supported, but agreement is less good where stirring is weaker.

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