Comparing the roles of barotropic versus baroclinic feedbacks in the atmosphere's response to mechanical forcing

Elizabeth A. Barnes, David W. J. Thompson

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Do barotropic or baroclinic eddy feedbacks dominate the atmospheric circulation response to mechanical forcing?

To address this question, barotropic torques are imposed over a range of latitudes in both an idealized general circulation model (GCM) and a barotropic model. The GCM includes both baroclinic and barotropic feedbacks. The barotropic model is run in two configurations: 1) only barotropic feedbacks are present and 2) a baroclinic-like feedback is added by allowing the stirring region to move with the jet. The relationship between the latitude of the forcing and the response is examined by systematically shifting the torques between the tropics and the pole. The importance of the mean state is investigated by varying the position of the control jet.

Five main findings are presented: 1) Barotropic feedbacks alone are capable of producing the structure of the GCM response to mechanical forcing but are not capable of accounting for its full magnitude. 2) Baroclinic processes generally increase the magnitude of the response but do not strongly influence its structure. 3) For a given forcing, the largest response in all model configurations occurs 5°–10° poleward of the forcing latitude. 4) The maximum response occurs when the forcing is located approximately 10° poleward of the control jet. 5) The circulation response weakens as the mean jet is found at higher latitudes in all model configurations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177–194
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Baroclinic flows
  • Barotropic flows
  • Feedback

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