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Gan Zhang and Zhuo Wang

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This study investigates the life cycle of anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking during the extended warm season (July–October) over the North Atlantic basin. It was found that upper-tropospheric breaking waves are coupled with lower-level perturbations and can be traced back to a wave train that extends from the North Pacific. The overturning of potential vorticity (PV) contours during wave breaking is associated with the rapid development of an upper-level ridge, which occurs along the east coast of North America and over a warm and moist airstream. The ridge development is investigated using the PV budget analysis and trajectory analysis. The PV budget analysis suggests that the horizontal advection of PV by the perturbed flow dictates the movement and the later decay of the ridge. The ridge amplification, opposed by the horizontal advection of PV, is driven by the vertical advection and the diabatic production of PV, both of which are connected to diabatic heating. The vital role of diabatic heating in the ridge amplification is corroborated by the trajectory analysis. The analysis suggests that diabatic heating reduces the static stability near the tropopause and contributes to the ridge-related negative PV anomalies. The role of diabatic heating in anticyclonic and cyclonic wave breaking in other regions is also discussed. The findings suggest that moist diabatic processes, which were often excluded from the earlier studies of wave breaking, are crucial for Rossby wave breaking during the warm season. The updated understanding of wave breaking may benefit weather forecasting and climate predictions.

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Gan Zhang and Zhuo Wang

Abstract

A novel method was developed to define the regional Hadley circulation (HC) in terms of the meridional streamfunction. The interannual variability of the Atlantic HC in boreal summer was examined using EOF analysis. The leading mode (M1), explaining more than 45% of the variances, is associated with the intensity change of the ITCZ. M1 is significantly correlated to multiple climate factors and has strong impacts on Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity. In the positive (negative) phase of M1, the ITCZ is stronger (weaker) than normal, and more (fewer) TCs form over the main development region (MDR) with a larger (smaller) fraction of storms intensifying into major hurricanes. Analyses showed that the large-scale dynamic and thermodynamic conditions associated with a stronger ITCZ are more favorable for TC activity.

The roles of tropical easterly waves in modulating the Atlantic TC activity are highlighted. In the positive phase of M1, the wave activity is significantly enhanced over the MDR and the Caribbean Sea, which can be attributed to stronger coastal convection and mean flow structure changes. In the context of the recently proposed marsupial paradigm, the frequency and structure of wave pouches were examined. In the positive phase of M1, the pouch frequency increases, and the number of pouches with a vertically coherent structure also rises significantly. A deep and vertically aligned wave pouch has been shown to be highly favorable for TC formation.

The HC perspective thus unifies both dynamic and thermodynamic conditions impacting Atlantic TC activity and helps explain the statistical linkages between Atlantic TC activity and different climate factors.

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Gan Zhang and Zhuo Wang

Abstract

This study explores the connection of Rossby wave breaking (RWB) with tropical and extratropical variability during the Atlantic hurricane season. The exploration emphasizes subtropical anticyclonic RWB events over the western North Atlantic, which strongly affect tropical cyclone (TC) activity. The first part of the study investigates the link between RWB and tropical sea surface temperature (SST) variability. Tropical SST variability affects tropical precipitation and modulates the large-scale atmospheric circulation over the subtropical Atlantic, which influences the behaviors of Rossby waves and the frequency of RWB occurrence. Meanwhile, RWB regulates surface heat fluxes and helps to sustain SST anomalies in the western North Atlantic. The second part of the study explores the connections between RWB and extratropical atmosphere variability by leveraging weather regime analysis. The weather regimes over the North Atlantic are closely associated with RWB over the eastern North Atlantic and western Europe, but show weak associations with RWB over the western North Atlantic. Instead, RWB over the western basin is closely related to the weather regimes in the North Pacific–North America sector. The finding helps clarify why the correlation between the Atlantic TC activity and the summertime North Atlantic Oscillation is tenuous. The relations between the extratropical weather regimes and tropical climate modes are also discussed. The findings suggest that both tropical and extratropical variability are important for understanding variations of RWB events and their impacts on Atlantic TC activity.

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Liping Zhang, Lixin Wu, and Bolan Gan

Abstract

The modes and mechanisms of the annual water vapor variations over the twentieth century are investigated based on a newly developed twentieth-century atmospheric reanalysis product. It is found that the leading modes of global water vapor variations over the twentieth century are controlled by global warming, the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), and ENSO. On the global scale, the variations in water vapor synchronize with the sea surface temperature, which can be explained by the simple thermal Clausius–Clapeyron theory under conditions of constant relative humidity. However, on regional scales, the spatial patterns of water vapor variations associated with global warming, AMO, and ENSO are largely attributed to the atmospheric circulation dynamics, particularly the planetary divergent circulation change induced by the sea surface temperature changes. In the middle and high latitudes, the transient eddy fluxes and thermodynamics also play significant roles.

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Gan Zhang, Levi G. Silvers, Ming Zhao, and Thomas R. Knutson

Abstract

Earlier studies have proposed many semi-empirical relations between climate and tropical cyclone (TC) activity. To explore these relations, this study conducts idealized aqua-planet experiments using both symmetric and asymmetric sea surface temperature (SST) forcings. With zonally symmetric SST forcings that have a maximum at 10°N, reducing meridional SST gradients around an Earth-like reference state leads to a weakening and southward displacement of the intertropical convergence zone. With nearly flat meridional gradients, warm-hemisphere TC numbers increase by nearly 100 times due particularly to elevated high-latitude TC activity. Reduced meridional SST gradients contribute to an poleward expansion of the tropics, which is associated with a poleward migration of the latitudes where TCs form or reach their lifetime maximum intensity. However, these changes cannot be simply attributed to the poleward expansion of Hadley circulation. Introducing zonally asymmetric SST forcings tends to decrease the global TC number. Regional SST warming—prescribed with or without SST cooling at other longitudes—affects local TC activity but does not necessarily increase TC genesis. While regional warming generally suppresses TC activity in remote regions with relatively cold SSTs, one experiment shows a surprisingly large increase of TC genesis. This increase of TC genesis over relatively cold SSTs is related to local tropospheric cooling that reduces static stability near 15°N and vertical wind shear around 25°N. Modeling results are discussed with scaling analyses and have implications for the application of the “convective quasi-equilibrium and weak temperature gradient” framework.

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Gan Zhang, Zhuo Wang, Melinda S. Peng, and Gudrun Magnusdottir

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This study investigates the characteristics of extratropical Rossby wave breaking (RWB) during the Atlantic hurricane season and its impacts on Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity. It was found that RWB perturbs the wind and moisture fields throughout the troposphere in the vicinity of a breaking wave. When RWB occurs more frequently over the North Atlantic, the Atlantic main development region (MDR) is subject to stronger vertical wind shear and reduced tropospheric moisture; the basinwide TC counts are reduced, and TCs are generally less intense, have a shorter lifetime, and are less likely to make landfalls. A significant negative correlation was found between Atlantic TC activity and RWB occurrence during 1979–2013. The correlation is comparable to that with the MDR SST index and stronger than that with the Niño-3.4 index. Further analyses suggest that the variability of RWB occurrence in the western Atlantic is largely independent of that in the eastern Atlantic. The RWB occurrence in the western basin is more closely tied to the environmental variability of the tropical North Atlantic and is more likely to hinder TC intensification or reduce the TC lifetime because of its proximity to the central portion of TC tracks. Consequently, the basinwide TC counts and the accumulated cyclone energy have a strong correlation with western-basin RWB occurrence but only a moderate correlation with eastern-basin RWB occurrence. The results highlight the extratropical impacts on Atlantic TC activity and regional climate via RWB and provide new insights into the variability and predictability of TC activity.

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Shuyu Zhang, Thian Yew Gan, and Andrew B. G. Bush

Abstract

Under global warming, Arctic sea ice has declined significantly in recent decades, with years of extremely low sea ice occurring more frequently. Recent studies suggest that teleconnections with large-scale climate patterns could induce the observed extreme sea ice loss. In this study, a probabilistic analysis of Arctic sea ice was conducted using quantile regression analysis with covariates, including time and climate indices. From temporal trends at quantile levels from 0.01 to 0.99, Arctic sea ice shows statistically significant decreases over all quantile levels, although of different magnitudes at different quantiles. At the representative extreme quantile levels of the 5th and 95th percentiles, the Arctic Oscillation (AO), the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and the Pacific–North American pattern (PNA) have more significant influence on Arctic sea ice than El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO). Positive AO as well as positive NAO contribute to low winter sea ice, and a positive PNA contributes to low summer Arctic sea ice. If, in addition to these conditions, there is concurrently positive AMO and PDO, the sea ice decrease is amplified. Teleconnections between Arctic sea ice and the climate patterns were demonstrated through a composite analysis of the climate variables. The anomalously strong anticyclonic circulation during the years of positive AO, NAO, and PNA promotes more sea ice export through Fram Strait, resulting in excessive sea ice loss. The probabilistic analyses of the teleconnections between the Arctic sea ice and climate patterns confirm the crucial role that the climate patterns and their combinations play in overall sea ice reduction, but particularly for the low and high quantiles of sea ice concentration.

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Li Zhang, Bolan Gan, Lixin Wu, Wenju Cai, and Hao Ma

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Two-way coupling between sea surface temperature (SST) variations in the midlatitude southern oceans and changes of synoptic-scale (2–8 day) eddy activities in the lower and upper troposphere throughout the year is investigated based on lagged maximum covariance analysis using reanalysis datasets from 1951 to 2000. Results show a strong seasonal dependence of the coupling, as characterized by the most prominent one in austral midsummer (January). On one hand, SST variations in austral late spring (primarily October) are likely to influence storm tracks in the following January. That is, significant warm SST anomalies in the western midlatitude areas of South Atlantic and south Indian Ocean could result in the systematic strengthening of the low-level and upper-level eddy activities, which is presumably attributed to the coherent intensification of the SST front and the lower-tropospheric baroclinicity. Particularly, interannual variability (a spectral peak at 4 yr) of SST in the western midlatitude South Atlantic in October could play a predominant role in driving the corresponding variability of the Southern Hemisphere storm tracks three months later. The timing of the discernible response of storm tracks is also discussed based on the preliminary results of sensitivity experiments. On the other hand, the strengthened eddy activities in January continue to induce the dipolelike patterns of SST anomalies in the midlatitude southern oceans. Those SST response patterns are, to the first order, determined by changes of the net surface heat flux. The anomalous Ekman advections in part driven by the storm-track changes also contribute to SST anomalies in the southern subtropical South Atlantic and the western midlatitude South Pacific.

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Gan Zhang, Zhuo Wang, Timothy J. Dunkerton, Melinda S. Peng, and Gudrun Magnusdottir

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With warm sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the tropical Atlantic and cold SST anomalies in the east Pacific, the unusually quiet hurricane season in 2013 was a surprise to the hurricane community. The authors’ analyses suggest that the substantially suppressed Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity in August 2013 can be attributed to frequent breaking of midlatitude Rossby waves, which led to the equatorward intrusion of cold and dry extratropical air. The resultant mid- to upper-tropospheric dryness and strong vertical wind shear hindered TC development. Using the empirical orthogonal function analysis, the active Rossby wave breaking in August 2013 was found to be associated with a recurrent mode of the midlatitude jet stream over the North Atlantic, which represents the variability of the intensity and zonal extent of the jet. This mode is significantly correlated with Atlantic hurricane frequency. The correlation coefficient is comparable to the correlation of Atlantic hurricane frequency with the main development region (MDR) relative SST and higher than that with the Niño-3.4 index. This study highlights the extratropical impacts on Atlantic TC activity, which may have important implications for the seasonal predictability of Atlantic TCs.

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Weiwei Li, Zhuo Wang, Gan Zhang, Melinda S. Peng, Stanley G. Benjamin, and Ming Zhao

Abstract

This study investigates the subseasonal variability of anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking (AWB) and its impacts on atmospheric circulations and tropical cyclones (TCs) over the North Atlantic in the warm season from 1985 to 2013. Significant anomalies in sea level pressure, tropospheric wind, and humidity fields are found over the tropical–subtropical Atlantic within 8 days of an AWB activity peak. Such anomalies may lead to suppressed TC activity on the subseasonal time scale, but a significant negative correlation between the subseasonal variability of AWB and Atlantic basinwide TC activity does not exist every year, likely due to the modulation of TCs by other factors. It is also found that AWB occurrence may be modulated by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). In particular, AWB occurrence over the tropical–subtropical west Atlantic is reduced in phases 2 and 3 and enhanced in phases 6 and 7 based on the Real-Time Multivariate MJO (RMM) index. The impacts of AWB on the predictive skill of Atlantic TCs are examined using the Global Ensemble Forecasting System (GEFS) reforecasts with a forecast lead time up to 2 weeks. The hit rate of tropical cyclogenesis during active AWB episodes is lower than the long-term-mean hit rate, and the GEFS is less skillful in capturing the variations of weekly TC activity during the years of enhanced AWB activity. The lower predictability of TCs is consistent with the lower predictability of environmental variables (such as vertical wind shear, moisture, and low-level vorticity) under the extratropical influence.

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