Generation of Inertia–Gravity Waves in a Simulated Life Cycle of Baroclinic Instability

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  • 1 Northwest Research Associates, Bellevue, Washington
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Abstract

The excitation and propagation of inertia–gravity waves (IGWs) generated by an unstable baroclinic wave was examined with a high-resolution 3D nonlinear numerical model. IGWs arose spontaneously as the tropospheric jetstream was distorted by baroclinic instability and strong parcel accelerations took place, primarily in the jetstream exit region of the upper troposphere. Subsequent propagation of IGWs occurred in regions of strong windspeed-in the tropospheric and stratospheric jets, and in a cutoff low formed during the baroclinic lifecycle. IGWs on the flanks of these jets were rotated inward by differential advection and subsequently absorbed by the model's hyperdiffusion. Although absorption of IGWs at the sidewalls of the jet is an artifact of the model, IGW propagation was for the most pan confined to regions with an intrinsic period shorter than the local inertial period. Only a few IGWs were able to penetrate the middle stratosphere, due to weak winds or an unfavorable alignment of wavevector with respect to the mean flow.

IGWs are important both as a synoptic signal in the jetstream, which may influence subsequent tropospheric developments, and as a source of isentropic or cross-isentropic mixing in the lower stratosphere. The authors' results demonstrated for the first time numerically a significant isentropic displacement of potential vorticity isopleths due to IGWs above the tropopause. Since conditions for IGW propagation are favorable within a jet, a region of strong isentropic potential vorticity gradient, it is likely that inertia–gravity waves affect the permeability of the lower stratospheric vortex and may in some instances lead to stratosphere–troposphere exchange.

Abstract

The excitation and propagation of inertia–gravity waves (IGWs) generated by an unstable baroclinic wave was examined with a high-resolution 3D nonlinear numerical model. IGWs arose spontaneously as the tropospheric jetstream was distorted by baroclinic instability and strong parcel accelerations took place, primarily in the jetstream exit region of the upper troposphere. Subsequent propagation of IGWs occurred in regions of strong windspeed-in the tropospheric and stratospheric jets, and in a cutoff low formed during the baroclinic lifecycle. IGWs on the flanks of these jets were rotated inward by differential advection and subsequently absorbed by the model's hyperdiffusion. Although absorption of IGWs at the sidewalls of the jet is an artifact of the model, IGW propagation was for the most pan confined to regions with an intrinsic period shorter than the local inertial period. Only a few IGWs were able to penetrate the middle stratosphere, due to weak winds or an unfavorable alignment of wavevector with respect to the mean flow.

IGWs are important both as a synoptic signal in the jetstream, which may influence subsequent tropospheric developments, and as a source of isentropic or cross-isentropic mixing in the lower stratosphere. The authors' results demonstrated for the first time numerically a significant isentropic displacement of potential vorticity isopleths due to IGWs above the tropopause. Since conditions for IGW propagation are favorable within a jet, a region of strong isentropic potential vorticity gradient, it is likely that inertia–gravity waves affect the permeability of the lower stratospheric vortex and may in some instances lead to stratosphere–troposphere exchange.

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