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Downstream Suppression of Baroclinic Waves

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

Baroclinic waves drive both regional variations in weather and large-scale variability in the extratropical general circulation. They generally do not exist in isolation, but rather often form into coherent wave packets that propagate to the east via a mechanism called downstream development. Downstream development has been widely documented and explored. Here we document a novel but also key aspect of baroclinic waves: the downstream suppression of baroclinic activity that occurs in the wake of eastward propagating disturbances. Downstream suppression is apparent not only in the Southern Hemisphere storm track as shown in previous work, but also in the North Pacific and North Atlantic storm tracks. It plays an essential role in driving subseasonal periodicity in extratropical eddy activity in both hemispheres, and gives rise to the observed quiescence of the North Atlantic storm track 1–2 weeks following pronounced eddy activity in the North Pacific sector. It is argued that downstream suppression results from the anomalously low baroclinicity that arises as eastward propagating wave packets convert potential to kinetic energy. In contrast to baroclinic wave packets, which propagate to the east at roughly the group velocity in the upper troposphere, the suppression of baroclinic activity propagates eastward at a slower rate that is comparable to that of the lower to midtropospheric flow. The results have implications for understanding subseasonal variability in the extratropical troposphere of both hemispheres.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Lina Boljka, lina.boljka@colostate.edu

Abstract

Baroclinic waves drive both regional variations in weather and large-scale variability in the extratropical general circulation. They generally do not exist in isolation, but rather often form into coherent wave packets that propagate to the east via a mechanism called downstream development. Downstream development has been widely documented and explored. Here we document a novel but also key aspect of baroclinic waves: the downstream suppression of baroclinic activity that occurs in the wake of eastward propagating disturbances. Downstream suppression is apparent not only in the Southern Hemisphere storm track as shown in previous work, but also in the North Pacific and North Atlantic storm tracks. It plays an essential role in driving subseasonal periodicity in extratropical eddy activity in both hemispheres, and gives rise to the observed quiescence of the North Atlantic storm track 1–2 weeks following pronounced eddy activity in the North Pacific sector. It is argued that downstream suppression results from the anomalously low baroclinicity that arises as eastward propagating wave packets convert potential to kinetic energy. In contrast to baroclinic wave packets, which propagate to the east at roughly the group velocity in the upper troposphere, the suppression of baroclinic activity propagates eastward at a slower rate that is comparable to that of the lower to midtropospheric flow. The results have implications for understanding subseasonal variability in the extratropical troposphere of both hemispheres.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Lina Boljka, lina.boljka@colostate.edu
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