Isentropic Mass Exchange between the Tropics and Extratropics in the Stratosphere

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
  • | 3 Meteorological Office, Bracknell, United Kingdom
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Abstract

The isentropic mass exchange between the Tropics and extratropics in the stratosphere is investigated with a semi-Lagrangian transport model for the periods from 1 June to 31 October 1992 and from 1 December 1992 to 30 April 1993 using winds from the U.K. Meteorological Office data assimilation system. Calculations with an idealized, initially zonally symmetric tracer show that in the middle and upper stratosphere the bulk of tropical air is transported into the midlatitudes of the winter hemisphere although there exist quasi-permeable barriers in the subtropics. The transport takes place in the form of planetary-scale “tongues” of material that are drawn poleward in association with the episodic amplification of planetary-scale waves in high latitudes of the winter hemisphere. Once air of tropical origin is transported to the midlatitudes it is irreversibly mixed with the midlatitude air in the “surf zone.” Air of tropical origin can, however, hardly penetrate into the interior of the winter polar vortex until the breakdown of the vortex. Transport of tropical air into the midlatitudes of the summer hemisphere is strongly inhibited.

In the lower stratosphere, tropical air is transported into the northern and southern midlatitudes. During the period from 1 June to 31 October 1992, the amount of tropical air transported into the Northern Hemisphere is, however, much smaller than that transported into the Southern Hemisphere, and there exist strong gradients in the tracer field in the equatorial region, indicating that there is a quasi-permeable barrier to cross-equator mass exchange. During the period from 1 December 1992 to 30 April 1993, on the other hand, roughly the same amounts of tropical air are transported into the northern midlatitudes and into the southern midlatitudes, and there exist no significant transport barriers in the equatorial area.

Abstract

The isentropic mass exchange between the Tropics and extratropics in the stratosphere is investigated with a semi-Lagrangian transport model for the periods from 1 June to 31 October 1992 and from 1 December 1992 to 30 April 1993 using winds from the U.K. Meteorological Office data assimilation system. Calculations with an idealized, initially zonally symmetric tracer show that in the middle and upper stratosphere the bulk of tropical air is transported into the midlatitudes of the winter hemisphere although there exist quasi-permeable barriers in the subtropics. The transport takes place in the form of planetary-scale “tongues” of material that are drawn poleward in association with the episodic amplification of planetary-scale waves in high latitudes of the winter hemisphere. Once air of tropical origin is transported to the midlatitudes it is irreversibly mixed with the midlatitude air in the “surf zone.” Air of tropical origin can, however, hardly penetrate into the interior of the winter polar vortex until the breakdown of the vortex. Transport of tropical air into the midlatitudes of the summer hemisphere is strongly inhibited.

In the lower stratosphere, tropical air is transported into the northern and southern midlatitudes. During the period from 1 June to 31 October 1992, the amount of tropical air transported into the Northern Hemisphere is, however, much smaller than that transported into the Southern Hemisphere, and there exist strong gradients in the tracer field in the equatorial region, indicating that there is a quasi-permeable barrier to cross-equator mass exchange. During the period from 1 December 1992 to 30 April 1993, on the other hand, roughly the same amounts of tropical air are transported into the northern midlatitudes and into the southern midlatitudes, and there exist no significant transport barriers in the equatorial area.

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