In Defense of Ertel's Potential Vorticity and Its General Applicability as a Meteorological Tracer

Edwin F. Danielsen NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California

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Abstract

A potential vorticity theorem and its two summary statements published by Haynes and McIntyre are challenged conceptually by equations, discussions and examples. The apparent simplification proposed by the authors to convert from a mass to volume integral, i.e., by cancelling density against the specific volume in the potential vorticity, changes the physical significance of the integrand. It no longer is the potential vorticity. The resulting mean for either a bulk Eulerian or Lagrangian system is then not analogous to a mixing ratio and therefore not independent of the broad spectrum of internal waves, the independence that makes Ertel's potential vorticity so valuable either as a stratospheric tracer or as a predictive or diagnostic, large scale, meteorological variable.

Abstract

A potential vorticity theorem and its two summary statements published by Haynes and McIntyre are challenged conceptually by equations, discussions and examples. The apparent simplification proposed by the authors to convert from a mass to volume integral, i.e., by cancelling density against the specific volume in the potential vorticity, changes the physical significance of the integrand. It no longer is the potential vorticity. The resulting mean for either a bulk Eulerian or Lagrangian system is then not analogous to a mixing ratio and therefore not independent of the broad spectrum of internal waves, the independence that makes Ertel's potential vorticity so valuable either as a stratospheric tracer or as a predictive or diagnostic, large scale, meteorological variable.

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