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Hanna Joos

Abstract

The link between cloud radiative forcing (CRF) and warm conveyor belts (WCBs), which are strongly ascending airstreams in extratropical cyclones, is investigated based on ERA-Interim reanalysis from 1979 to 2011. Clouds associated with WCBs can be liquid, mixed phase, or ice clouds. They interact with the longwave and shortwave radiation in different ways and thus strongly influence Earth’s radiative budget in the extratropical storm tracks in a complex way. In this study, WCBs are identified with a Lagrangian method, where WCBs are represented by trajectories that rise at least 600 hPa in 48 h in the vicinity of an extratropical cyclone, and CRF is traced along all WCB trajectories during the considered 30-yr period. The results show that due to the poleward ascent of WCBs, they exhibit negative net cloud forcing (NetCRF) in the southern part of the associated cloud band, whereas in their northern part, NetCRF gets positive due to the lack of sunlight in the winter months. This nonuniform CRF along WCBs from low to high latitudes increases the meridional NetCRF gradient. Furthermore, in their outflow regions in the North Atlantic, where WCBs are mainly associated with ice clouds, WCBs contribute up to 10 W m−2 to the global climatological NetCRF maximum in winter. The results highlight the importance of WCBs in modulating the radiative budget in the extratropics. Furthermore, the results emphasize the need for a correct representation of WCBs in climate models to correctly simulate the cloud–circulation coupling.

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Bas Crezee, Hanna Joos, and Heini Wernli

Abstract

Diabatically generated low-level potential vorticity (PV) anomalies in extratropical cyclones enhance near-surface winds and influence the cyclone’s development. Positive and negative PV anomalies in the warm-frontal region of an extratropical cyclone, simulated with an idealized moist baroclinic channel model, are investigated to identify the microphysical processes that produce them. Using a novel method based on backward trajectories from the PV anomalies, the contribution of different microphysical processes to the formation of the anomalies is quantified. It is found that, for each anomaly, typically one specific microphysical process takes the leading role in its diabatic generation. A large but rather weak low- and midlevel positive anomaly is produced by depositional growth of ice and snow. Two smaller but stronger positive anomalies at lower levels are generated mainly by in-cloud condensational heating at the warm front and below-cloud rain evaporation and snow melting 200 km farther north. In addition, near-surface negative anomalies are produced by snow melting and snow sublimation. In summary, this idealized study reveals that (i) a variety of microphysical processes are involved in generating the complex mesoscale PV structures along the warm front; (ii) the model representation of these processes, some of them still insufficiently understood and parameterized, therefore matters for an accurate prediction of these features; (iii) below-cloud processes are also relevant for PV anomalies located in clouds, owing to accumulation of diabatic PV tendencies along ascending air parcels; and (iv) the diabatic history of the air parcels is essential in order to explain the observed PV pattern.

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Erica Madonna, Heini Wernli, Hanna Joos, and Olivia Martius

Abstract

A global climatology of warm conveyor belts (WCBs) is presented for the years 1979–2010, based on trajectories calculated with Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data. WCB trajectories are identified as strongly ascending air parcels (600 hPa in 2 days) near extratropical cyclones. Corroborating earlier studies, WCBs are more frequent during winter than summer and they ascend preferentially in the western ocean basins between 25° and 50° latitude. Before ascending, WCB trajectories typically approach from the subtropics in summer and from more midlatitude regions in winter. Considering humidity, cloud water, and potential temperature along WCBs confirms that they experience strong condensation and integrated latent heating during the ascent (typically >20 K). Liquid and ice water contents along WCBs peak at about 700 and 550 hPa, respectively. The mean potential vorticity (PV) evolution shows typical tropospheric values near 900 hPa, followed by an increase to almost 1 potential vorticity unit (PVU) at 700 hPa, and a decrease to less than 0.5 PVU at 300 hPa. These low PV values in the upper troposphere constitute significant negative anomalies with amplitudes of 1–3 PVU, which can strongly influence the downstream flow. Considering the low-level diabatic PV production, (i) WCBs starting at low latitudes (<40°) are unlikely to attain high PV (due to weak planetary vorticity) although they exhibit the strongest latent heating, and (ii) for those ascending at higher latitudes, a strong vertical heating gradient and high absolute vorticity are both important. This study therefore provides climatological insight into the cloud diabatic formation of significant positive and negative PV anomalies in the extratropical lower and upper troposphere, respectively.

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Hanin Binder, Maxi Boettcher, Hanna Joos, and Heini Wernli

Abstract

The role of warm conveyor belts (WCBs) and their associated positive low-level potential vorticity (PV) anomalies are investigated for extratropical cyclones in Northern Hemisphere winter, using ERA-Interim and composite techniques. The Spearman correlation coefficient of 0.68 implies a moderate to strong correlation between cyclone intensification and WCB strength. Hereby, cyclone intensification is quantified by the normalized maximum 24-h central sea level pressure deepening and WCB strength by the WCB air mass associated with the cyclone’s 24-h period of strongest deepening. Explosively intensifying cyclones typically have strong WCBs and pronounced WCB-related PV production in the cyclone center; they are associated with a WCB of type W2, which ascends close to the cyclone center. Cyclones with similar WCB strength but weak intensification are either diabatic Rossby waves, which do not interact with an upper-level disturbance, or cyclones where much of the WCB-related PV production occurs far from the cyclone center and thereby does not contribute strongly to cyclone deepening (WCB of type W1, which ascends mainly along the cold front). The category of explosively intensifying cyclones with weak WCBs is inhomogeneous but often characterized by a very low tropopause or latent heating independent of WCBs. These findings reveal that (i) diabatic PV production in WCBs is essential for the intensification of many explosive cyclones, (ii) the importance of WCBs for cyclone development strongly depends on the location of the PV production relative to the cyclone center, and (iii) a minority of explosive cyclones is not associated with WCBs.

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Stephan Pfahl, Erica Madonna, Maxi Boettcher, Hanna Joos, and Heini Wernli

Abstract

The role of moisture for extratropical atmospheric dynamics is particularly pronounced within warm conveyor belts (WCBs), which are characterized by intense latent heat release and precipitation formation. Based on the WCB climatology for the period 1979–2010 presented in Part I, two important aspects of the WCB moisture cycle are investigated: the evaporative moisture sources and the relevance of WCBs for total and extreme precipitation. The most important WCB moisture source regions are the western North Atlantic and North Pacific in boreal winter and the South Pacific and western South Atlantic in boreal summer. The strongest continental moisture source is South America. During winter, source locations are mostly local and over the ocean, and the associated surface evaporation occurs primarily during 5 days prior to the start of the WCB ascent. Long-range transport and continental moisture recycling are much more important in summer, when a substantial fraction of the evaporation occurs more than 10 days before the ascent. In many extratropical regions, WCB moisture supply is related to anomalously strong surface evaporation, enforced by low relative humidity and high winds over the ocean. WCBs are highly relevant for total and extreme precipitation in many parts of the extratropics. For instance, the percentage of precipitation extremes directly associated with a WCB is higher than 70%–80% over southeastern North America, Japan, and large parts of southern South America. A proper representation of WCBs in weather forecast and climate models is thus essential for the correct prediction of extreme precipitation events.

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Erica Madonna, Sebastian Limbach, Christine Aebi, Hanna Joos, Heini Wernli, and Olivia Martius

Abstract

The co-occurrence of warm conveyor belts (WCBs), strongly ascending moist airstreams in extratropical cyclones, and stratospheric potential vorticity (PV) streamers, indicators for breaking Rossby waves on the tropopause, is investigated for a 21-yr period in the Northern Hemisphere using Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data. WCB outflows and PV streamers are respectively identified as two- and three-dimensional objects and tracked during their life cycle. PV streamers are more frequent than WCB outflows and nearly 15% of all PV streamers co-occur with WCBs during their life cycle, whereas about 60% of all WCB outflows co-occur with PV streamers. Co-occurrences are most frequent over the North Atlantic and North Pacific in spring and winter. WCB outflows are often located upstream of the PV streamers and form earlier, indicating the importance of diabatic processes for downstream Rossby wave breaking. Less frequently, PV streamers occur first, leading to the formation of new WCBs.

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Elisa Spreitzer, Roman Attinger, Maxi Boettcher, Richard Forbes, Heini Wernli, and Hanna Joos

Abstract

The upper-level potential vorticity (PV) structure plays a key role in the evolution of extratropical weather systems. PV is modified by nonconservative processes, such as cloud latent heating, radiative transfer, and turbulence. Using a Lagrangian method, material PV modification near the tropopause is attributed to specific parameterized processes in the global model of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). In a case study, several flow features identified in a vertical section across an extratropical cyclone experienced strong PV modification. In particular clear-air turbulence at the jet stream is found to be a relevant process (i) for the PV structure of an upper-level front–jet system, corroborating previous observation-based findings of turbulent PV generation; (ii) for the purely turbulent decay of a tropopause fold, identified as an effective process of stratosphere–troposphere exchange; and (iii) in the ridge, where the Lagrangian accumulated turbulent PV modification exhibits a distinct vertical pattern, potentially impacting the strength of the tropopause inversion layer. In contrast, cloud processes affect the near-tropopause PV structure above a warm conveyor belt outflow in the ridge and above cold-sector convection. In agreement with previous studies, radiative PV production dominates in regions with an anomalously low tropopause, where both radiation and convection act to increase the vertical PV gradient across the tropopause. The particular strengths of the Lagrangian diagnostic are that it connects prominent tropopause structures with nonconservative PV modification along the flow and that it quantifies the relative importance of turbulence, radiation, and cloud processes for these modifications.

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Jennifer L. Catto, Erica Madonna, Hanna Joos, Irina Rudeva, and Ian Simmonds

Abstract

Extratropical cyclones are responsible for many extreme precipitation events in the midlatitudes. Warm conveyor belts (WCBs) and fronts are known to be related to the uplift and hence the precipitation within cyclones. The authors have investigated the link between WCBs and fronts and how such a link impacts the occurrence of extreme precipitation events. WCB trajectories have been calculated from the ERA-Interim dataset, and low-level (below 790 hPa) and midlevel (790–600 hPa) WCBs have been considered. These have been matched with objectively identified fronts (i.e., characterized by an overlap of WCB and front somewhere along the front). About 10% of cold fronts, 8% of warm fronts (identified using a thermal criterion), and 15% of wind fronts (identified using a wind shift method) are matched with WCBs, while up to 70% of WCBs are matched with fronts. Some WCBs, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, are not matched with either type of front (up to 70% east of Australia). The relationship between WCBs and fronts does not change much between the low levels and midlevels, indicating that the WCBs are already strongly associated with fronts during the lowest part of their ascent, although in the Southern Hemisphere the WCBs are more often related to warm fronts during their midtropospheric ascent. In parts of the midlatitudes, more than 60% of extreme precipitation events match either cold or warm fronts, and up to 90% of these have matched WCBs. Fronts associated with WCBs are found to be between 2 and 10 times more likely to produce extreme precipitation events than fronts without associated WCBs.

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