Low-Frequency Intraseasonal Tropical-Extratropical Interactions

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  • 1 Laboratory for Atmospheres, Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA, Greenbelt, Maryland
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Abstract

Low-frequency (20–70 day) variability is examined during Northern Hemisphere (NH) winter based on seven Years (1981–87) of European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts initialized analyses. The dominant 200 mb zonal wind fluctuations in the Pacific sector, determined from an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis, provide the baseline modes of atmospheric variability, which are related to fluctuations in other circulation parameters and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). The composite circulation associated with the extreme phases of the zonal wind modes are examined for differences in forcing, wave propagation characteristics and stability.

The dominant upper level zonal wind fluctuation (EOF Z1) is associated with an expanded (contracted) region of easterlies in the tropical western Pacific and changes in the shape and intensity of the subtropical jets. The anomalous (difference between composites) eddy streamfunction at 200 mb shows an enhanced pair of anticyclones (cyclones) straddling the equator. These fluctuations are strongly coupled with eastward traveling tropical convection in the western Pacific with a time scale of about 40 days. The composite circulations show marked differences in the propagation of wave activity in the NH at 200 mb. The low phase (reduced easterlies) shows strong propagation away from the dominant source region over East Asia into the tropical western Pacific in conjunction with what appears to be significant reflection from the equatorward flank of the subtropical jet. In contrast, the high composite (enhanced easterlies) shows much weaker equatorward propagation together with reduced vertical propagation over East Asia and the western North Pacific.

The second zonal wind EOF (Z2) displays a more asymmetric structure with respect to the equator, describing a simultaneous decrease (increase) in the easterly extent of the East Asian jet and increase (decrease) in the strength of the jet over southern Australia. The anomalous eddy stream function at 200 mb shows wave trains apparently emanating from the tropical central Pacific extending into both hemispheres: in the winter hemisphere this resembles the Pacific-North American (PNA) pattern. These fluctuations show some coupling with preceding tropical convection anomalies in the western and central Pacific. Stability calculations show that the PNA pattern is maintained through barotropic energy exchanges with the mean flow. For the low composite, an enhanced source of stationary wave activity in the Gulf of Alaska is associated with an increase in synoptic-scale eddy activity.

These results suggest that tropical convection in the western Pacific has a strong modifying influence on (extratropically forced) middle latitude low-frequency variability. The influence is primarily indirect via zonal wind changes which influence the propagation of waves originating in middle latitudes. The zonal wind changes include those associated with the strength and extent of the tropical easterlies as well as more subtle (but important) changes which effect the curvature of the East Asian jet leading in some instances to turning points for middle latitude waves. The PNA also appears to have its main energy source in middle latitudes and in this case the link with the tropics appears to be more tied to phase locking with anomalies forced by tropical convection in the western and central Pacific.

Abstract

Low-frequency (20–70 day) variability is examined during Northern Hemisphere (NH) winter based on seven Years (1981–87) of European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts initialized analyses. The dominant 200 mb zonal wind fluctuations in the Pacific sector, determined from an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis, provide the baseline modes of atmospheric variability, which are related to fluctuations in other circulation parameters and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). The composite circulation associated with the extreme phases of the zonal wind modes are examined for differences in forcing, wave propagation characteristics and stability.

The dominant upper level zonal wind fluctuation (EOF Z1) is associated with an expanded (contracted) region of easterlies in the tropical western Pacific and changes in the shape and intensity of the subtropical jets. The anomalous (difference between composites) eddy streamfunction at 200 mb shows an enhanced pair of anticyclones (cyclones) straddling the equator. These fluctuations are strongly coupled with eastward traveling tropical convection in the western Pacific with a time scale of about 40 days. The composite circulations show marked differences in the propagation of wave activity in the NH at 200 mb. The low phase (reduced easterlies) shows strong propagation away from the dominant source region over East Asia into the tropical western Pacific in conjunction with what appears to be significant reflection from the equatorward flank of the subtropical jet. In contrast, the high composite (enhanced easterlies) shows much weaker equatorward propagation together with reduced vertical propagation over East Asia and the western North Pacific.

The second zonal wind EOF (Z2) displays a more asymmetric structure with respect to the equator, describing a simultaneous decrease (increase) in the easterly extent of the East Asian jet and increase (decrease) in the strength of the jet over southern Australia. The anomalous eddy stream function at 200 mb shows wave trains apparently emanating from the tropical central Pacific extending into both hemispheres: in the winter hemisphere this resembles the Pacific-North American (PNA) pattern. These fluctuations show some coupling with preceding tropical convection anomalies in the western and central Pacific. Stability calculations show that the PNA pattern is maintained through barotropic energy exchanges with the mean flow. For the low composite, an enhanced source of stationary wave activity in the Gulf of Alaska is associated with an increase in synoptic-scale eddy activity.

These results suggest that tropical convection in the western Pacific has a strong modifying influence on (extratropically forced) middle latitude low-frequency variability. The influence is primarily indirect via zonal wind changes which influence the propagation of waves originating in middle latitudes. The zonal wind changes include those associated with the strength and extent of the tropical easterlies as well as more subtle (but important) changes which effect the curvature of the East Asian jet leading in some instances to turning points for middle latitude waves. The PNA also appears to have its main energy source in middle latitudes and in this case the link with the tropics appears to be more tied to phase locking with anomalies forced by tropical convection in the western and central Pacific.

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