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Sebastian Schemm, Heini Wernli, and Lukas Papritz

Abstract

This idealized modeling study of moist baroclinic waves addresses the formation of moist ascending airstreams, so-called warm conveyor belts (WCBs), their characteristics, and their significance for the downstream flow evolution. Baroclinic wave simulations are performed on the f plane, growing from a finite-amplitude upper-level potential vorticity (PV) perturbation on a zonally uniform jet stream. This nonmodal approach allows for dispersive upstream and downstream development and for studying WCBs in the primary cyclone and the downstream cyclone. A saturation adjustment scheme is used as the only difference between the dry and moist simulations, which are systematically compared using a cyclone-tracking algorithm, with an eddy kinetic energy budget analysis, and from a PV perspective. Using trajectories and a selection criterion of maximum ascent, forward- and rearward-sloping WCBs in the moist simulation are identified. No WCB is identified in the dry simulation. Forward-sloping WCBs originate in the warm sector, move into the frontal fracture region, and ascend over the bent-back front, where maximum latent heating occurs in this simulation. The outflow of these WCBs is located at altitudes with prevailing zonal winds; they hence flow anticyclonically (“forward”) into the downstream ridge. In case of a slightly weaker ascent, WCBs curve cyclonically (“rearward”) above the cyclone center. A detailed analysis of the PV evolution along the WCBs reveals PV production in the lower troposphere and destruction in the upper troposphere. Consequently, WCBs transport low-PV air into their outflow region, which contributes to the formation of distinct negative PV anomalies. They, in turn, affect the downstream flow and enhance downstream cyclogenesis.

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David Byrne, Lukas Papritz, Ivy Frenger, Matthias Münnich, and Nicolas Gruber

Abstract

Many aspects of the coupling between the ocean and atmosphere at the mesoscale (on the order of 20–100 km) remain unknown. While recent observations from the Southern Ocean revealed that circular fronts associated with oceanic mesoscale eddies leave a distinct imprint on the overlying wind, cloud coverage, and rain, the mechanisms responsible for explaining these atmospheric changes are not well established. Here the atmospheric response above mesoscale ocean eddies is investigated utilizing a newly developed coupled atmosphere–ocean regional model [Consortium for Small-Scale Modeling–Regional Ocean Modelling System (COSMO-ROMS)] configured at a horizontal resolution of ~10 km for the South Atlantic and run for a 3-month period during austral winter of 2004. The model-simulated changes in surface wind, cloud fraction, and rain above the oceanic eddies are very consistent with the relationships inferred from satellite observations for the same region and time. From diagnosing the model’s momentum balance, it is shown that the atmospheric imprint of the oceanic eddies are driven by the modification of vertical mixing in the atmospheric boundary layer, rather than secondary flows driven by horizontal pressure gradients. This is largely due to the very limited ability of the atmosphere to adjust its temperature over the time scale it takes for an air parcel to pass over these mesoscale oceanic features. This results in locally enhanced vertical gradients between the ocean surface and the overlying air and thus a rapid change in turbulent mixing in the atmospheric boundary layer and an associated change in the vertical momentum flux.

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