08 Aug 2022
08 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal WCD.

Towards a diagnostic framework unifying different perspectives on blocking dynamics: insight into a major blocking in the North Atlantic-European region

Seraphine Hauser1, Franziska Teubler2, Michael Riemer2, Peter Knippertz1, and Christian M. Grams1 Seraphine Hauser et al.
  • 1Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-TRO), Department Troposphere Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz, Germany

Abstract. Atmospheric blocking describes a situation in which a stationary and persistent anticyclone blocks the eastward propagation of weather systems in the midlatitudes and can lead to extreme weather events. In the North Atlantic-European region blocking contributes to life cycles of weather regimes, which are recurrent, quasi-stationary, and persistent patterns of the large-scale circulation. Despite progress in blocking theory over the last decades, we are still lacking a comprehensive, process-based conceptual understanding of blocking dynamics. Here we combine three different perspectives on blocking, namely the commonly used Eulerian and Lagrangian perspectives, complemented by a novel quasi-Lagrangian perspective. Within the established framework of mid-latitude potential vorticity (PV) thinking the joint consideration of the three perspectives enables a comprehensive picture of the dynamics and quantifies the importance of dry and moist processes during a blocking life cycle.

We apply the diagnostic framework to a European Blocking weather regime life cycle in March 2016, which was associated with a severe forecast bust in the Atlantic-European region. All three perspectives highlight the importance of moist processes during the onset and maintenance of the ‘blocked’ weather regime. The Eulerian perspective, which identifies the processes contributing to the onset and decay of the regime, indicates that dry quasi-barotropic wave dynamics and especially the eastward advection of PV anomalies (PVAs) into the North Atlantic-European sector are associated with the onset of the regime pattern. By tracking the negative upper-tropospheric PVA associated with the ‘block’, the quasi-Lagrangian view reveals, for the same period, abrupt amplification due to moist processes. This is in good agreement with the Lagrangian perspective indicating that a large fraction of air parcels that end up in the negative PVA experiences diabatic heating. Overall, the study shows that important contributions to the development take place outside of the region in which the blocked weather regime eventually establishes, and that a joint consideration of different perspectives is important in order not to miss processes, in particular moist-baroclinic dynamics, contributing to a blocking life cycle.

Seraphine Hauser et al.

Status: open (until 19 Oct 2022)

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Seraphine Hauser et al.

Seraphine Hauser et al.


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Short summary
Blocking describes a flow configuration in midlatitudes where stationary high-pressure systems block the propagation of weather systems. This study presents a unified framework to capture blocking dynamics from three different perspectives and quantifies the importance of different processes in the formation of a major blocking in 2016. In future work, this framework will enable a holistic view on the dynamics and the role of moist processes in different life cycle stages of the blocking.