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Timothy M. Merlis and Tapio Schneider


Linear stability analyses are performed on a wide range of mean flows simulated with a dry idealized general circulation model. The zonal length scale of the linearly most unstable waves is similar to the Rossby radius. It is also similar to the energy-containing zonal length scale in statistically steady states of corresponding nonlinear simulations. The meridional length scale of the linearly most unstable waves is generally smaller than the energy-containing meridional length scale in the corresponding nonlinear simulations. The growth rate of the most unstable waves increases with increasing Eady growth rate, but the scaling relationship is not linear in general. The available potential energy and barotropic and baroclinic kinetic energies of the linearly most unstable waves scale linearly with each other, with similar partitionings among the energy forms as in the corresponding nonlinear simulations. These results show that the mean flows in the nonlinear simulations are baroclinically unstable, yet there is no substantial inverse cascade of barotropic eddy kinetic energy from the baroclinic generation scale to larger scales, even in strongly unstable flows. Some aspects of the nonlinear simulations, such as partitionings among eddy energies, can be understood on the basis of linear stability analyses; for other aspects, such as the structure of heat and momentum fluxes, nonlinear modifications of the waves are important.

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Eric Bembenek, David N. Straub, and Timothy M. Merlis


The effects of moisture on the energetics of a statistically stationary, baroclinically unstable jet representing the midlatitude atmosphere are examined using a two-layer, β-plane shallow-water model. Flow is driven by a relaxation of the interface between the two layers to a baroclinically unstable profile. Moisture is input to the lower layer by evaporation. When supersaturation occurs, precipitation is triggered and the related latent heat release drives a mass transfer between the two layers. A comparison between dry and moist reference atmospheres shows that precipitation reduces eddy kinetic energy. This is related to the meridional distribution of precipitation, which occurs on the poleward side of the jet (where the interface field is raised). This latitudinal structure of precipitation is related to a correlation between poleward flow and ascent, which is analyzed using a shallow-water analog to the ω equation. The precipitation effect on the energy budget is predominately due to zonal- and time-averaged terms. Because of this, dry simulations in which the thermal forcing is modified to mimic the effect of zonally averaged precipitation are carried out and compared with their precipitating counterparts. These simulations show a similar reduction of baroclinic eddy kinetic energy; however, the barotropic eddy kinetic energy response shows a larger difference.

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Andrew P. Ballinger, Timothy M. Merlis, Isaac M. Held, and Ming Zhao


The sensitivity of global tropical cyclone (TC) activity to changes in a zonally symmetric sea surface temperature (SST) distribution and the associated large-scale atmospheric circulation are investigated. High-resolution (~50-km horizontal grid spacing) atmospheric general circulation model simulations with maximum SST away from the equator are presented. Simulations with both fixed-SST and slab ocean lower boundary conditions are compared.

The simulated TCs that form on the poleward flank of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) are tracked and changes in the frequency and intensity of those storms are analyzed between the different experiments. The total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) increases as the location of the maximum SST shifts farther away from the equator. The location of the ITCZ also shifts in conjunction with changes to the SST profile, and this plays an important role in mediating the frequency and intensity of the TCs that form within this modeling framework.

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