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  • Author or Editor: Christopher C. Walker x
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Matthew E. Peters, Zhiming Kuang, and Christopher C. Walker

Abstract

An analysis of atmospheric energy transport in 22 years (1980–2001) of the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) is presented. In the analyzed budgets, there is a large cancellation between divergences of dry static and latent energy such that the total energy divergence is positive over all tropical oceanic regions except for the east Pacific cold tongue, consistent with previous studies. The west Pacific and Indian Oceans are characterized by a balance between diabatic sources and mean advective energy export, with a small eddy contribution. However, in the central and eastern Pacific convergence zone, total energy convergence by the mean circulation is balanced by submonthly eddies, with a small diabatic source. Decomposing the mean advective tendency into terms due to horizontal and vertical advection shows that the spatial variation in the mean advection is due largely to variations in vertical advection; these variations are further attributed to variations in the vertical profile of the vertical velocity. The eddy energy export, due almost exclusively to eddy moisture export, does not exhibit any significant seasonal variation.

The relationship between the eddies and the mean circulation is examined. Large-scale moisture diffusion is correlated with eddy moisture export on (500 km)2 spatial scales, implying that eddy activity preferentially dries narrow convergence zones over wide ones. Eddy moisture export is further linked to the depth of mean convection in large-scale convergence zones with larger eddy export associated with shallower circulations. This suggests a mechanism that could contribute to the observed variation in mean divergence profiles across the northern tropical Pacific whereby sea surface temperature gradients set the width of convergence zones and eddy activity modulates the tropospheric relative humidity and divergence profile. The importance of variations in the vertical profile of the vertical velocity and eddies in closing the energy budget implies that simple models of the mean tropical circulation should include these effects.

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Tapio Schneider, Karen L. Smith, Paul A. O’Gorman, and Christopher C. Walker

Abstract

Based on reanalysis data for the years 1980–2001 from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ERA-40 data), a climatology of tropospheric zonal-mean water vapor fields and fluxes in isentropic coordinates is presented. In the extratropical free troposphere, eddy fluxes dominate the meridional flux of specific humidity along isentropes. At all levels, isentropic eddy fluxes transport water vapor from the deep Tropics through the subtropics into the extratropics. Isentropic eddy fluxes of specific humidity diverge near the surface and in the tropical and subtropical free troposphere; they converge in the extratropical free troposphere. Isentropic mean advective fluxes of specific humidity play a secondary role in the meridional water vapor transport in the free troposphere; however, they dominate the meridional flux of specific humidity near the surface, where they transport water vapor equatorward and, in the solstice seasons, across the equator. Cross-isentropic mean advective fluxes of specific humidity are especially important in the Hadley circulation, in whose ascending branches they moisten and in whose descending branches they dry the free troposphere.

Near the minima of zonal-mean relative humidity in the subtropical free troposphere, the divergence of the cross-isentropic mean advective flux of specific humidity in the descending branches of the Hadley circulation is the dominant divergence in the mean specific humidity balance; it is primarily balanced by convergence of cross-isentropic turbulent fluxes that transport water vapor from the surface upward. Although there are significant isentropic eddy fluxes of specific humidity through the region of the subtropical relative humidity minima, their divergence near the minima is generally small compared with the divergence of cross-isentropic mean advective fluxes, implying that moistening by eddy transport from the Tropics into the region of the minima approximately balances drying by eddy transport into the extratropics. That drying by cross-isentropic mean subsidence near the subtropical relative humidity minima is primarily balanced by moistening by upward turbulent fluxes of specific humidity, likely in convective clouds, suggests cloud dynamics may play a central role in controlling the relative humidity of the subtropical free troposphere.

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