Binary interactions between polar lows

Ian A. Renfrew, G. W. K. Moore, Aashish A. Clerk

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In this study, the movement of polar lows is addressed from a novel and perspicuous viewpoint. The usual assumption has been that these mesoscale systems are, to a first approximation, advected by the larger scale flow in which they are embedded. However, when there are two or more polar lows in the same vicinity, binary interactions between pairs of polar lows can cause a cyclonic co-rotation of the pair. In geographic coordinates these interactions can appear as unusual loops, twists and turns in the low tracks, due to the interplay between the cyclonic co-rotation and the translation of the binary pair by the ambient flow. However when the tracks are replotted in centroid relative coordinates, a mutual rotation is unmistakable. Satellite imagery from several case studies has been examined to accurately determine the polar low tracks, and thus the co-rotations. Using surface wind observations, a theoretical rotation rate can be estimated, based on barotropic vortex dynamics. There is a good correspondence between the observed and calculated rotation rates. Recognizing the existence of binary interactions between polar lows emphasises the connection between polar lows and tropical cyclones, where binary interactions have been described in several studies. Indeed, in the cases studied here, binary interactions are strongest during the secondary (convective) stage of polar low development where the lows are somewhat analogous to arctic hurricanes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-594
Number of pages18
JournalTellus A
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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