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Adam H. Monahan and John C. Fyfe

Abstract

Dipolar structures arise as empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of extratropical tropospheric zonal-mean zonal wind in observations, in idealized dynamical models, and in complex general circulation models. This study characterizes the conditions under which dipoles emerge as EOFs of a jet of fixed shape f (x), which takes a unique localized extremum and is smooth but is otherwise arbitrary, characterized by fluctuations in strength, position, and width of arbitrary distribution. It is shown that the factors that influence the extent to which a dipolelike structure will arise as an EOF are (i) the skewness of position fluctuations, (ii) the dependence of position fluctuations on strength and width fluctuations, and (iii) the relative strength of the position and width fluctuations. In particular, the leading EOF will be a dipole if jet position fluctuations are not strongly skewed, not strongly dependent on strength and width fluctuations, and sufficiently large relative to strength and width fluctuations. Because these conditions are generally satisfied to a good approximation by observed and simulated tropospheric eddy-driven jets, this analysis provides a simple explanation of the ubiquity of dipolar jet EOFs.

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