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Annick Terpstra and Thomas Spengler

Abstract

Idealized model simulations have long been established as valuable tools to gain insight into atmospheric phenomena by providing a simplified, easier to comprehend version of the complex atmospheric system. A specific subgroup of idealized simulations, such as baroclinic channel models, requires the initialization of the model with balanced atmospheric fields to investigate the evolution of an introduced perturbation. The quality of these simulations depends on the degree of balance of the initial state, as imbalances result in geostrophic and hydrostatic adjustment processes that potentially skew the results. In this paper, a general method to create geostrophically and hydrostatically balanced initial conditions is introduced. The major benefit of this method is the possibility to directly define a basic state wind field with the pertinent atmospheric fields being derived given appropriate boundary conditions. Application of the method is exemplified by constructing initial conditions for a baroclinic test case with WRF and analyzing a perturbed and unperturbed numerical simulation. The unperturbed simulation exhibits weak inertia–gravity wave activity and minimal adjustment of the initial state during a 5-day simulation, which confirms the high degree of initial balance provided by the initialization technique. In the perturbed simulation, baroclinic instability is initiated, resulting in a cyclogenesis event similar to previous idealized baroclinic channel simulations. The proposed method is compared with initial conditions formulated in a Boussinesq framework, illustrating the difference in imbalances and their effect on perturbation growth.

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Clio Michel, Annick Terpstra, and Thomas Spengler
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Clio Michel, Annick Terpstra, and Thomas Spengler

Abstract

Polar mesoscale cyclones (PMCs) are automatically detected and tracked over the Nordic seas using the Melbourne University algorithm applied to ERA-Interim. The novelty of this study lies in the length of the dataset (1979–2014), using PMC tracks to infer relationships to large-scale flow patterns, and elucidating the sensitivity to different selection criteria when defining PMCs and polar lows and their genesis environments. The angle between the ambient mean and thermal wind is used to distinguish two different PMC genesis environments. The forward shear environment (thermal and mean wind have the same direction) features typical baroclinic conditions with a temperature gradient at the surface and a strong jet stream at the tropopause. The reverse shear environment (thermal and mean wind have opposite directions) features an occluded cyclone with a barotropic structure throughout the entire troposphere and a low-level jet. In contrast to previous studies, PMC occurrence features neither a significant trend nor a significant link with the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Scandinavian blocking (SB), though the SB negative pattern seems to promote reverse shear PMC genesis. The sea ice extent in the Nordic seas is not associated with overall changes in PMC occurrence but influences the genesis location. Selected cold air outbreak indices and the temperature difference between the sea surface and 500 hPa (SST − T500) show no robust link with PMC occurrence, but the characteristics of forward shear PMCs and their synoptic environments are sensitive to the choice of the SST − T500 threshold.

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Annick Terpstra, Clio Michel, and Thomas Spengler

Abstract

The synoptic and subsynoptic environments associated with polar low genesis are examined. Ambient pre–polar low environments are classified as forward or reverse shear conditions based on the angle between the thermal and mean wind. Forward shear environments are associated with a synoptic-scale ridge over Scandinavia, featuring a zonally oriented baroclinic zone extending throughout the troposphere with a wind speed maximum at the tropopause. Similar to typical midlatitude cyclogenesis, concurrent wavelike development occurs both in the lower and upper troposphere along the baroclinic zone and the mean propagation direction is eastward, parallel to isolines of sea surface temperature. Reverse shear environments exhibit a distinctly different structure and are characterized by a trough over Scandinavia, associated with a synoptic-scale, occluded cyclone. The genesis area exhibits strong cold air advection on its right-hand side and polar low development occurs on the warm side of an intense low-level jet. The environment resembles the characteristics conducive to secondary development associated with frontal instability. Polar lows developing in this configuration propagate mainly southward, perpendicular to isolines of sea surface temperature. The two genesis environments exhibit similar temperature differences between the sea surface and atmosphere near the surface, yet the magnitude of the surface fluxes is approximately double during reverse shear conditions due to stronger low-level winds. The ratio between surface sensible and latent heat fluxes is close to unity for both shear environments.

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Annick Terpstra, Ian A. Renfrew, and Denis E. Sergeev

Abstract

Equatorward excursions of cold polar air masses into ice-free regions, so-called cold-air outbreak (CAO) events, are frequently accompanied by the development of severe mesoscale weather features. Focusing on two key regions, the Labrador Sea and the Greenland–Norwegian Seas, we apply objective detection for both CAO events and polar mesoscale cyclones to outline the temporal evolution of CAO events and quantify associated mesoscale cyclogenesis. We introduce a novel metric, the CAO depth, which incorporates both the static stability and the temperature of the air mass. The large-scale atmospheric conditions during the onset of CAO events comprise a very cold upper-level trough over the CAO region and a surface cyclone downstream. As the CAO matures, the cold air mass extends southeastward, accompanied by lower static stability and enhanced surface fluxes. Despite the nearly 20° difference in latitude, CAO events over both regions exhibit similar evolution and characteristics including surface fluxes and thermodynamic structure. About two-thirds of the identified CAO events are accompanied by polar mesoscale cyclogenesis, with the majority of mesoscale cyclones originating inside the cold air masses. Neither the duration nor the maturity of the CAO event seems relevant for mesoscale cyclogenesis. Mesoscale cyclogenesis conditions during CAO events over the Labrador Sea are warmer, moister and exhibit stronger surface latent heat fluxes than their Norwegian Sea counterparts.

Open access
Thomas Spengler, Ian A. Renfrew, Annick Terpstra, Michael Tjernström, James Screen, Ian M. Brooks, Andrew Carleton, Dmitry Chechin, Linling Chen, James Doyle, Igor Esau, Paul J. Hezel, Thomas Jung, Tsubasa Kohyama, Christof Lüpkes, Kelly E. McCusker, Tiina Nygård, Denis Sergeev, Matthew D. Shupe, Harald Sodemann, and Timo Vihma
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