Downstream suppression of baroclinic waves

Lina Boljka, David W. J. Thompson, Ying Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919–930
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume34
Issue number3
Early online date31 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Atmosphere
  • Atmospheric
  • Baroclinic flows
  • Dynamics
  • Intraseasonal variability
  • Waves

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