13 Oct 2020

13 Oct 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal WCD.

Potential-Vorticity Dynamics of Troughs and Ridges within Rossby Wave Packets during a 40-year reanalysis period

Franziska Teubler and Michael Riemer Franziska Teubler and Michael Riemer
  • Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Mainz, Germany

Abstract. Rossby wave packets (RWPs) are fundamental to midlatitude dynamics and govern weather systems from their individual life cycles to their climatological distributions. Renewed interest in RWPs as precursors to high-impact weather events and in the context of atmospheric predictability motivates this study to revisit the dynamics of RWPs. A quantitative potential vorticity (PV) framework is employed. Based on the well established PV-thinking of midlatitude dynamics, the processes governing RWP amplitude evolution comprise group propagation of Rossby waves, baroclinic interaction, the impact of upper-tropospheric divergent flow, and direct diabatic PV modification by nonconservative processes. An advantage of the PV framework is that the impact of moist processes is more directly diagnosed than in alternative, established frameworks for RWP dynamics. The mean dynamics of more than 6000 RWPs from 1979–2017 are presented using ERA5 data, complemented with nonconservative tendencies from the Year of tropical convection data (available 2008–2010).

Confirming a pre-existing model of RWP dynamics, group propagation within RWPs is consistent with linear barotropic theory, and baroclinic and divergent amplification occur most prominently during the mature stage and rather towards the trailing edge of RWPs. Refining the pre-existing model, the maximum of divergent amplification occurs in advance of max-imum baroclinic growth and baroclinic interaction tends to weaken RWP amplitude towards the leading edge. Downstream baroclinic development is confirmed to provide a valid description of RWP dynamics in both, summer and winter, although baroclinic growth is substantially smaller (about 50 %) in summer. Longwave radiative cooling makes a first-order contribution to ridge and trough amplitude. This large impact, however, is not coupled to other governing processes and is thus interpreted as a climatological background process. The direct impact of other nonconservative tendencies, including latent heat release, is an order of magnitude smaller than longwave radiative cooling. Arguably, latent heat release still has a substantial impact on RWPs by invigorating upper-troposhperic divergence. The divergent flow amplifies ridges and weakens troughs. This impact is of leading order and larger than that of baroclinic growth. To the extent that divergence is associated with latent heat release below, we argue that moist processes contribute to the well-known asymmetry in the spatial scale of troughs and ridges. For ridges, divergent amplification is strongly coupled to baroclinic growth and enhanced latent heat release. We thus propose that the life cycle of ridges is best described in terms of downstream moist-baroclinic development. Finally, our results demonstrate that divergent ridge amplification does not only depend on the magnitude of latent heat release but also on its relative location (phasing). We have demonstrated that phasing is a function of the stage of the baroclinic life cycle. We thus further hypothesize that phasing is the most relevant aspect of the dry baroclinic dynamics, rather than the impact of secondary circulations that develop associated with the dry dynamics of a baroclinically developing wave.

Franziska Teubler and Michael Riemer

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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Franziska Teubler and Michael Riemer

Franziska Teubler and Michael Riemer


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Short summary
Rossby Wave packets impact all aspects of midlatitude weather systems, from their climatological distribution to predictability. Case studies suggest an important role of latent heat release in clouds. We investigate thousands of wave packets with a novel diagnostic. We demonstrate that, on average, the impact of moist processes is substantially different between troughs and ridges and that dry conceptual models of wave packet dynamics should be extended.