Terrestrial Superrotation: A Bifurcation of the General Circulation

Max J. Suarez Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Dean G. Duffy Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

When sufficiently large zonally asymmetric tropical heating is introduced in a two-level model of global atmospheric flow, its general circulation becomes strongly superrotating. The nature of the superrotating solutions is studied by examining momentum and heat budgets for a range of values of thermal forcing. Changes in the transport of zonal momentum by transient eddies appear to play the key role in the transition to superrotation. The dramatic bifurcation of the solutions of this model may help explain the maintenance and variability of the zonal mean flow in the tropics.

Abstract

When sufficiently large zonally asymmetric tropical heating is introduced in a two-level model of global atmospheric flow, its general circulation becomes strongly superrotating. The nature of the superrotating solutions is studied by examining momentum and heat budgets for a range of values of thermal forcing. Changes in the transport of zonal momentum by transient eddies appear to play the key role in the transition to superrotation. The dramatic bifurcation of the solutions of this model may help explain the maintenance and variability of the zonal mean flow in the tropics.

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