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Gang Chen

Abstract

The mean meridional circulation of the atmosphere is presented using the mass (more specifically, the pressure corresponding to the mass) above the isentrope of interest as the vertical coordinate. In this vertical coordinate, the mass-weighted mean circulation is exactly balanced by entropy sources and sinks with no eddy flux contribution as in the isentropic coordinate, and the coordinate can be readily generalized to the mass above moist isentropes or other quasi-conservative tracers by construction. The corresponding Eliassen–Palm (EP) flux divergence for the zonal-mean angular momentum is formulated in a hybrid isobaric–isentropic form, extending the conventional transformed Eulerian-mean (TEM) formulation to finite-amplitude nongeostrophic eddies on the sphere. In the small-amplitude limit, the hybrid isobaric–isentropic formulation reduces to the TEM formulation.

Applying to the NCEP–U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Reanalysis 2, the new formulation resolves the deficiency of the conventional TEM formulation for the near-surface flow, where the isentropic surface intersects the ground, and the mean circulation agrees well with the TEM above the near-surface layer. In the small-amplitude limit, this improvement near the surface can be partially attributed to the isentropic static stability over the isobaric counterpart, as the mass density in the near-surface isentropic layers gradually approaches zero. Also, the mean mass streamfunction can be approximately obtained from the EP flux divergence except for the deep tropics or the near-surface flow, highlighting the dominant control of potential vorticity mixing for the subtropics-to-pole mean circulations. It is then expected to provide a valuable diagnostic framework not only for global circulation theory, but also for atmospheric transport in the troposphere.

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Gang Chen and Alan Plumb

Abstract

Tropospheric transport can be described qualitatively by the slow mean diabatic circulation and rapid isentropic mixing, yet a quantitative understanding of the transport circulation is complicated, as nearly half of the isentropic surfaces in the troposphere frequently intersect the ground. A theoretical framework for the effective isentropic diffusivity of tropospheric transport is presented. Compared with previous isentropic analysis of effective diffusivity, a new diagnostic is introduced to quantify the eddy diffusivity of the near-surface isentropic flow. This diagnostic also links the effective eddy diffusivity directly to a diffusive closure of eddy fluxes through a finite-amplitude wave activity equation.

The theory is examined in a dry primitive equation model on the sphere. It is found that the upper troposphere is characterized by a diffusivity minimum at the jet’s center with enhanced mixing at the jet’s flanks and that the lower troposphere is dominated by stronger mixing throughout the baroclinic zone. This structure of isentropic diffusivity is generally consistent with the diffusivity obtained from the geostrophic component of the flow. Furthermore, the isentropic diffusivity agrees broadly with the tracer equivalent length obtained from either a spectral diffusion scheme or a semi-Lagrangian advection scheme, indicating that the effective diffusivity of tropospheric transport is largely dictated by large-scale stirring rather than details of the small-scale diffusion acting on the tracers.

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Gang Chen and Lantao Sun

Abstract

The role of extratropical waves in the tropical upwelling branch of the Brewer–Dobson circulation is investigated in an idealized model of the stratosphere and troposphere. To simulate different stratospheric seasonal cycles of planetary waves in the two hemispheres, seasonally varying radiative heating is imposed only in the stratosphere, and surface topographic forcing is prescribed only in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). A zonally symmetric version of the same model is used to diagnose the effects of different wavenumbers and different regions of the total forcing on tropical stratospheric upwelling.

The simple configuration can simulate a reasonable seasonal cycle of the tropical upwelling in the lower stratosphere with a stronger amplitude in January (NH midwinter) than in July (NH midsummer), as in the observations. It is shown that the seasonal cycle of stratospheric planetary waves and tropical upwelling responds nonlinearly to the strength of the tropospheric forcing, with a midwinter maximum under strong NH-like tropospheric forcing and double peaks in the fall and spring under weak Southern Hemisphere (SH)-like forcing. The planetary wave component of the total forcing can approximately reproduce the seasonal cycle of tropical stratospheric upwelling in the zonally symmetric model.

The zonally symmetric model further demonstrates that the planetary wave forcing in the winter tropical and subtropical stratosphere contributes most to the seasonal cycle of tropical stratospheric upwelling, rather than the high-latitude wave forcing. This suggests that the planetary wave forcing, prescribed mostly in the extratropics in the model, has to propagate equatorward into the subtropical latitudes to induce sufficient tropical upwelling. Another interesting finding is that the planetary waves in the summer lower stratosphere can drive a shallow residual circulation rising in the subtropics and subsiding in the extratropics.

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Gang Chen and R. Alan Plumb

Abstract

An idealized atmospheric model is employed to quantify the strength of the eddy feedback and the persistence of the zonal index. The strength of the surface frictional damping on the zonal index is varied, and an external zonal momentum forcing is included to compensate for the momentum change associated with the friction change such that the climatological jet latitude and shape are unchanged.

The model can generate a nearly identical climatology and leading mode of the zonal mean zonal wind for different frictional damping rates, except when the jet undergoes a regime transition. For those experiments without a regime transition, as the surface friction is increased, the strength of eddy feedback is enhanced but the zonal index becomes less persistent. A simple feedback model suggests that the e-folding decorrelation time scale of the zonal index can be determined by the frictional damping rate and the strength of eddy feedback. The strength of eddy feedback is found to be related to the instantaneous vertical wind shears near the surface controlled by the frictional damping. Furthermore, the climate response to an external zonal torque is proportional to the decorrelation time scale, although the simple prediction used here overestimates the climate response by a factor of 2.

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Gang Chen and Stephen E. Belcher

Abstract

A model is developed to explain the observation made in several laboratory experiments that short wind-generated waves are suppressed by a train of long, mechanically generated waves. A sheltering mechanism is responsible for generation of the short wind waves, by which wave growth is proportional to the local turbulent wind stress. Hence, if the turbulent wind stress near the surface is reduced by the long wave, then the short wind wave amplitude, and hence also the energy in the short waves at a given fetch, is lower than in the absence of long wave. A quantitative model of this process is formulated to examine the ratios of the growth rate and the total energy density of wind waves with and without a long wave, which is shown to agree reasonably well with the laboratory experiments. The model also explains why this suppression of wind waves by a very long swell is not observed in the ocean where the effects of swell on wind waves are extremely difficult to detect. In the model, the reduction in the turbulent wind stress by the long wave is largest for small values of C L/u* (where C L is the phase speed of the long wave and u* is the friction velocity of the wind). When this ratio is larger than about 25 (typical of ocean swell), both the reduction of the turbulent wind stress by the long wave and, consequently, the reduction in the total energy density of the wind waves are very small, which explains why this phenomenon has not yet been observed on the ocean.

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Gang Chen and Pablo Zurita-Gotor

Abstract

This paper explores the tropospheric jet shift to a prescribed zonal torque in an idealized dry atmospheric model with high stratospheric resolution. The jet moves in opposite directions for torques on the jet’s equatorward and poleward flanks in the troposphere. This can be explained by considering how the critical latitudes for wave activity absorption change, where the eastward propagation speed of eddies equals the background zonal mean zonal wind. While the increased zonal winds in the subtropics allow the midlatitude eddies to propagate farther into the tropics and result in the equatorward shift in the critical latitudes, the increased winds in the midlatitudes accelerate the eastward eddy phase speeds and lead to the poleward shift in the critical latitudes.

In contrast, the jet moves poleward when a westerly torque is placed in the extratropical stratosphere irrespective of the forcing latitude. The downward penetration of zonal winds to the troposphere displays a poleward slope for the subtropical torque, an equatorward slope for the high-latitude torque, and less tilting for the midlatitude torques. The stratospheric eddies play a key role in transferring zonal wind anomalies downward into the troposphere. It is argued that these stratospheric zonal wind anomalies can affect the tropospheric jet by altering the eastward propagation of tropospheric eddies. Additionally, the zonal wind response to a subtropical zonal torque in this idealized model is of value in understanding the tropospheric jet sensitivity to the orographic gravity wave drag parameterization in a realistic climate model.

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Boer Zhang, Marianna Linz, and Gang Chen

Abstract

The nonnormality of temperature probability distributions and the physics that drive it are important due to their relationships to the frequency of extreme warm and cold events. Here we use a conditional mean framework to explore how horizontal temperature advection and other physical processes work together to control the shape of daily temperature distributions during 1979–2019 in the ERA5 dataset for both JJA and DJF. We demonstrate that the temperature distribution in the middle and high latitudes can largely be linearly explained by the conditional mean horizontal temperature advection with the simple treatment of other processes as a Newtonian relaxation with a spatially variant relaxation time scale and equilibrium temperature. We analyze the role of different transient and stationary components of the horizontal temperature advection in affecting the shape of temperature distributions. The anomalous advection of the stationary temperature gradient has a dominant effect in influencing temperature variance, while both that term and the covariance between anomalous wind and anomalous temperature have significant effects on temperature skewness. While this simple method works well over most of the ocean, the advection–temperature relationship is more complicated over land. We classify land regions with different advection–temperature relationships under our framework, and find that for both seasons the aforementioned linear relationship can explain ∼30% of land area, and can explain either the lower or the upper half of temperature distributions in an additional ∼30% of land area. Identifying the regions where temperature advection explains shapes of temperature distributions well will help us gain more confidence in understanding the future change of temperature distributions and extreme events.

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Lantao Sun, Gang Chen, and Walter A. Robinson

Abstract

This paper investigates the connection between the delay in the final breakdown of the stratospheric polar vortex, the stratospheric final warming (SFW), and Southern Hemisphere climate trends. The authors first analyze Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and three climate model outputs with different climate forcings. Climate trends appear when there is a delay in the timing of SFWs. When regressed onto the SFW dates (which reflect the anomaly when the SFW is delayed for one standard deviation of its onset dates), the anomaly pattern bears a resemblance to the observed climate trends, for all the model outputs, even without any trends. This suggests that the stratospheric and tropospheric circulations are organized by the timing of SFWs in both the interannual time scale and climate trends because of external forcings.

The authors further explore the role of the SFW using a simplified dynamical model in which the ozone depletion is mimicked by a springtime polar stratospheric cooling. The responses of zonal-mean atmospheric circulation, including zonal wind, temperature, and poleward edge of the Hadley cell and the Ferrel cell, are similar to the observed climate trends. The authors divide the years into those in which the SFW is delayed and those in which it is not. The responses for the years in which the SFW is delayed are very similar to the overall response, while the stratosphere is only characterized by the localized cooling for those years in which the SFW is not delayed, with no subsequent downward influence into the troposphere. This suggests that, in order to affect the troposphere, ozone depletion must first delay the SFW so as to induce a deep response in planetary wave drag and the associated eddy-driven circulation.

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Lantao Sun, Walter A. Robinson, and Gang Chen

Abstract

The roles of the stratosphere and the troposphere in determining the predictability of stratospheric final warming and sudden warming events are evaluated in an idealized atmospheric model. For each stratospheric warming event simulated in the model, a number of forecast experiments are performed from 10 or 20 days prior to the warming onset with perturbations in the troposphere and in the stratosphere separately. It is found that the stratosphere affects predictions of warming onset primarily by providing the initial state of the zonal winds, while the tropospheric initial conditions have a large impact through the generation and propagation of planetary waves. These results correspond to the roles played by the initial zonal flow and the evolution of eddy forcings in a zonally symmetric model. The initial stratospheric zonal flow has some influence on stratospheric wave driving, but in most cases this does not significantly affect the timing of the warming, except when the initial condition is close to the onset date. These results highlight the role of the troposphere in determining stratospheric planetary wave driving and support the importance of tropospheric precursors to the stratospheric warming events.

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Jesse Norris, Gang Chen, and J. David Neelin

Abstract

The moisture budget is evaluated as a function of the probability distribution of precipitation for the end of the twentieth century and projected end of the twenty-first century in the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble. For a given precipitation percentile, a conditional moisture budget equation relates precipitation minus evaporation (P − E) to vertical moisture transport, horizontal moisture advection, and moisture storage. At high percentiles, moisture advection and moisture storage cancel and evaporation is negligible, so that precipitation is approximately equal to vertical moisture transport, and likewise for projected changes. Therefore, projected changes to extreme precipitation are approximately equal to the sum of thermodynamic and dynamic tendencies, representing changes to the vertical profiles of moisture content and mass convergence, respectively. The thermodynamic tendency is uniform across percentiles and regions as an intensification of the hydrological cycle, but the dynamic tendency is more complex. For extreme events, per degree of warming, in the mid-to-high latitudes the dynamic tendency is small, so that precipitation approximately scales by the Clausius–Clapeyron 7% K−1 increase. In the subtropics, a drying tendency originating from dynamics offsets the thermodynamic wetting tendency, with the net effect on precipitation varying among regions. The effect of this dynamic drying decreases with increasing percentile. In the deep tropics, a positive dynamic tendency occurs with magnitude similar to or greater than the positive thermodynamic tendency, resulting in generally a 10%–15% K−1 precipitation increase, and with a >25% K−1 increase over the tropical east Pacific. This reinforcing dynamical tendency increases rapidly for high percentiles.

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