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Žiga Zaplotnik
,
Matic Pikovnik
, and
Lina Boljka

Abstract

This study explores the possible drivers of the recent Hadley circulation strengthening in the modern reanalyses. Predominantly, two recent generations of reanalyses provided by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts are used: the fifth-generation atmospheric reanalysis (ERA5) and the interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim). Some results are also evaluated against other long-term reanalyses. To assess the origins of the Hadley cell (HC) strength variability, we employ the Kuo–Eliassen (KE) equation. ERA5 shows that both HCs were strengthening prior to the 2000s, but they have been weakening or remained steady afterward. Most of the long-term variability in the strength of the HCs is explained by the meridional gradient of diabatic (latent) heating, which is related to precipitation gradients. However, the strengthening of both HCs in ERA5 is larger than the strengthening expected from the observed zonal-mean precipitation gradient [estimated from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP)]. This suggests that the HC strength trends in the recent decades in ERA5 can be explained partly as an artifact of the misrepresentation of latent heating and partly through (physical) long-term variability. To show that the latter is true, we analyze ERA5 preliminary data for the 1950–78 period, other long-term (e.g., twentieth century) reanalyses, and sea surface temperature observational data. This reveals that the changes in the HC strength can be a consequence of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) and related diabatic and frictional processes, which in turn drive the global HC variability. This work has implications for further understanding of the long-term variability of the Hadley circulation.

Open access
Nedjeljka Žagar
,
Žiga Zaplotnik
, and
Khalil Karami

Abstract

The globally integrated subseasonal variability associated with the two main atmospheric circulation regimes, the balanced (or Rossby) and unbalanced (or inertia–gravity) regimes, is evaluated for the four reanalysis datasets: ERA-Interim, JRA-55, MERRA, and ERA5. The results quantify amplitudes and trends in midlatitude traveling and quasi-stationary Rossby wave patterns as well as in the equatorial wave activity across scales. A statistically significant reduction of subseasonal variability is found in Rossby waves with zonal wavenumber k = 6 along with an increase in variability in wavenumbers k = 3–5 in the summer seasons of both hemispheres. The four reanalyses also agree regarding increased variability in the large-scale Kelvin waves, mixed Rossby–gravity waves, and westward-propagating inertio-gravity waves with the lowest meridional mode. The amplitude and sign of trends in inertia–gravity modes with smaller zonal scales and greater meridional modes differ between the ERA-Interim and JRA-55 datasets on the one hand and the ERA5 and MERRA data on the other. An increased variability in the ERA-Interim and JRA-55 accounts for positive trends in their total subseasonal variability.

Free access
Matic Pikovnik
,
Žiga Zaplotnik
, and
Lina Boljka
Restricted access
Nedjeljka Žagar
,
Valentino Neduhal
,
Sergiy Vasylkevych
,
Žiga Zaplotnik
, and
Hiroshi L. Tanaka

Abstract

The spectrum of kinetic energy of vertical motions (VKE) is less well understood compared to the kinetic energy spectrum of horizontal motions (HKE). One challenge that has limited progress in describing the VKE spectrum is a lack of a unified approach to the decomposition of vertical velocities associated with the Rossby motions and inertia–gravity (IG) wave flows. This paper presents such a unified approach using a linear Rossby–IG vertical velocity normal-mode decomposition appropriate for a spherical, hydrostatic atmosphere. New theoretical developments show that for every zonal wavenumber k, the limit VKE is proportional to the total mechanical energy and to the square of the frequency of the normal mode. The theory predicts a VKE ∝ k −5 and a VKE ∝ k 1/3 power law for the Rossby and IG waves, assuming a k −3 and a k −5/3 power law for the Rossby and IG HKE spectra, respectively. The Kelvin and mixed Rossby–gravity wave VKE spectra are predicted to follow k −1 and k −5 power laws, respectively. The VKE spectra for ERA5 data from August 2018 show that the Rossby VKE spectra approximately follow the predicted a k −5 power law. The expected k 1/3 power law for the gravity wave VKE spectrum is found only in the SH midlatitude stratosphere for k ≈ 10–60. The inertial range IG VKE spectra in the tropical and midlatitude troposphere reflect a mixture of ageostrophic and convection-coupled dynamics and have slopes between −1 and −1/3, likely associated with too steep IG HKE spectra. The forcing by quasigeostrophic ageostrophic motions is seen as an IG VKE peak at synoptic scales in the SH upper troposphere, which gradually moves to planetary scales in the stratosphere.

Significance Statement

The spectrum of kinetic energy of vertical motions (VKE) is less well understood compared to the kinetic energy spectrum of horizontal motions. One challenge is a lack of a unified approach to the decomposition of vertical velocities associated with the Rossby motions and inertia–gravity (IG) wave flows. This paper presents such a unified approach using a linear Rossby–IG vertical velocity normal-mode decomposition appropriate for a spherical, hydrostatic atmosphere. It is shown that for every zonal wavenumber, the limit VKE is proportional to the total mechanical energy and to the square of the frequency of the normal mode. The theory is successfully applied to the ERA5 data. It leads the way for a more accurate computation of momentum fluxes.

Restricted access