A Statistical-Dynamical Study of Empirically Determined Modes of Atmospheric Variability

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706
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Abstract

The observed wintertime intraseasonal variability of the Northern Hemisphere midtropospheric circulation is analyzed within the framework of an equivalent barotropic model. The analysis centers on the wave domain empirical orthogonal functions (E0Fs) of the 500 mb streamfunction anomalies. The projection of the dynamical model onto the EOFs leads to a system of quadratically nonlinear equations involving the EOF coefficients.

A major result of this study is the identification of the barotropically unstable wintertime mean flow as a potentially important energy source for some of the dominant low frequency EOFS. These EOFS are associated with such hemispheric scale variations as an index cycle, the Pacific/North American pattern, and the North Atlantic Oscillation.

The dominant EOFs are most strongly influenced by nonlinear interactions and this decreases as one goes to the higher order modes. In contrast, the beta and mean flow-EOF interaction terms (which are highly negatively correlated) have a relatively weak influence on the first few EOFs while the strongest influence is on the intermediate EOFs (15–25). The parameterized terms (orography, friction and long-wave correction) have a secondary effect on the EOFs when compared to the advection terms.

Generally, the dominant EOFs represent more unstable flow regimes when compared with the time mean flow. The negative instance of EOF 9, which resembles North Atlantic blocking, is particularly unstable and an inspection of the time mean EOF interactions supports the idea that interactions with the dominant low-frequency modes act to destroy this pattern. In the present model, blocking is most likely to occur as a quasi-linear response to the inhomogeneous forcing which enters into the model as a balance requirement of the time-averaged horizontal flow.

Abstract

The observed wintertime intraseasonal variability of the Northern Hemisphere midtropospheric circulation is analyzed within the framework of an equivalent barotropic model. The analysis centers on the wave domain empirical orthogonal functions (E0Fs) of the 500 mb streamfunction anomalies. The projection of the dynamical model onto the EOFs leads to a system of quadratically nonlinear equations involving the EOF coefficients.

A major result of this study is the identification of the barotropically unstable wintertime mean flow as a potentially important energy source for some of the dominant low frequency EOFS. These EOFS are associated with such hemispheric scale variations as an index cycle, the Pacific/North American pattern, and the North Atlantic Oscillation.

The dominant EOFs are most strongly influenced by nonlinear interactions and this decreases as one goes to the higher order modes. In contrast, the beta and mean flow-EOF interaction terms (which are highly negatively correlated) have a relatively weak influence on the first few EOFs while the strongest influence is on the intermediate EOFs (15–25). The parameterized terms (orography, friction and long-wave correction) have a secondary effect on the EOFs when compared to the advection terms.

Generally, the dominant EOFs represent more unstable flow regimes when compared with the time mean flow. The negative instance of EOF 9, which resembles North Atlantic blocking, is particularly unstable and an inspection of the time mean EOF interactions supports the idea that interactions with the dominant low-frequency modes act to destroy this pattern. In the present model, blocking is most likely to occur as a quasi-linear response to the inhomogeneous forcing which enters into the model as a balance requirement of the time-averaged horizontal flow.

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