skip to main content

Title: Oceanic moisture sources contributing to wintertime Euro-Atlantic blocking
Abstract. Although conventionally attributed to dry dynamics, increasing evidence points to a key role of moist dynamics in the formation and maintenance of blocking events. The source of moisture crucial for these processes, however, remains elusive. In this study, we identify the moisture sources responsible for latent heating associated with the wintertime Euro-Atlantic blocking events detected over 31 years (1979–2010). To this end, we track atmospheric particles backward in time from the blocking centres for a period of 10 d using an offline Lagrangian dispersion model applied to atmospheric reanalysis data. The analysis reveals that 28 %–55 % of particles gain heat and moisture from the ocean over the course of 10 d, with higher percentages for the lower altitudes from which particles are released. Via large-scale ascent, these moist particles transport low-potential-vorticity (PV) air of low-altitude, low-latitude origins into the upper troposphere, where the amplitude of blocking is the most prominent, in agreement with previous studies. The PV of these moist particles remains significantly lower compared to their dry counterparts throughout the course of 10 d, preferentially constituting blocking cores. Further analysis reveals that approximately two-thirds of the moist particles source their moisture locally from the Atlantic, while the remaining one-third of moist particles source more » it from the Pacific. There is also a small fraction of moist particles that take up moisture from both the Pacific and Atlantic basins, which undergo a large-scale uplift over the Atlantic using moisture picked up over both basins. The Gulf Stream and Kuroshio and their extensions as well as the eastern Pacific northeast of Hawaii not only provide heat and moisture to moist particles but also act as “springboards” for their large-scale, cross-isentropic ascent, where its extent strongly depends on the humidity content at the time of the ascent. While the particles of Atlantic origin swiftly ascend just before their arrival at blocking, those of Pacific origin begin their ascent a few days earlier, after which they carry low-PV air in the upper troposphere while undergoing radiative cooling just as dry particles. A previous study identified a blocking maintenance mechanism, whereby low-PV air is selectively absorbed into blocking systems to prolong blocking lifetime. As they used an isentropic trajectory analysis, this mechanism was regarded as a dry process. We found that these moist particles that are fuelled over the Pacific can also act to maintain blocks in the same manner, revealing that what appears to be a blocking maintenance mechanism governed by dry dynamics alone can, in fact, be of moist origin. « less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Weather and Climate Dynamics
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The latitudinal precipitation distribution shows a secondary peak in midlatitudes and a minimum in the subtropics. This minimum is widely attributed to the descending branch of the Eulerian Hadley cell. This study however shows that the precipitation distribution aligns more closely with the transformed Eulerian mean (TEM) vertical motion. In Northern Hemisphere winter, maximum TEM descent (ascent) and precipitation minimum (maximum) are collocated at ~20°N (~40°N). The subtropical descent is mostly driven by the meridional flux of zonal momentum by large-scale eddies, while the midlatitude ascent is driven by the meridional flux of heat by the eddies. When the poleward eddy momentum flux is sufficiently strong, however, the secondary precipitation peak shifts to 60°N corresponding to the location of the TEM ascent driven by the eddy momentum flux. Moisture supply for the precipitation is aided by evaporation which is enhanced where the TEM descending branch brings down dry air from the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere. This picture is reminiscent of dry air intrusions in synoptic meteorology, suggesting that the descending branch may embody a zonal mean expression of dry air intrusions. Moist air rises following the TEM ascending branch, suggesting that the ascending branch may be interpreted as a zonalmore »mean expression of warm conveyor belts. This study thus offers a large-scale dynamics perspective of the synoptic description of precipitation systems. The findings here also suggest that future changes in the eddy momentum flux, which is poorly understood, could play a pivotal role in determining the future precipitation distribution.

    « less
  2. Abstract
    Site description. This data package consists of data obtained from sampling surface soil (the 0-7.6 cm depth profile) in black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) dominated forest and black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) saltmarsh along the Gulf of Mexico coastline in peninsular west-central Florida, USA. This location has a subtropical climate with mean daily temperatures ranging from 15.4 °C in January to 27.8 °C in August, and annual precipitation of 1336 mm. Precipitation falls as rain primarily between June and September. Tides are semi-diurnal, with 0.57 m median amplitudes during the year preceding sampling (U.S. NOAA National Ocean Service, Clearwater Beach, Florida, station 8726724). Sea-level rise is 4.0 ± 0.6 mm per year (1973-2020 trend, mean ± 95 % confidence interval, NOAA NOS Clearwater Beach station). The A. germinans mangrove zone is either adjacent to water or fringed on the seaward side by a narrow band of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). A near-monoculture of J. roemerianus is often adjacent to and immediately landward of the A. germinans zone. The transition from the mangrove to the J. roemerianus zone is variable in our study area. An abrupt edge between closed-canopy mangrove and J. roemerianus monoculture may extend for up to several hundred metersMore>>
  3. The Salton basin is a closed, subsea level basin located in extreme southeastern California. At the center of the basin lies the Salton Sea, the state’s largest inland lake, which is surrounded by a desert landscape characterized by paleo lakebed surfaces, dry washes, alluvial fans, and interdunes. Dust storms are common occurrence in this region. However, despite the regularity of dust outbreaks here, little is known about the meteorological processes responsible for these storms. Here I use observations and output from reanalysis to elucidate the meteorological controls on dust emission events in the Salton basin during 2015–18. Analysis of surface and upper-air observations, satellite data, and reanalysis, suggest that the largest dust storms in the region are associated with an upper-level low centered near the coastline of western Canada, which directs a zonal low-level jet over the region. Flow blocking by a coastal mountain range results in isentropic drawdown of air in the lee of these mountains. Once surface warming at the floor of the Salton basin is sufficient such that the density of the descending air is greater than that of the ambient air at the surface, the downslope windstorm reaches the desert floor and initiates dust emission. Thismore »process may also be accompanied by a downwind propagating hydraulic jump. These processes appear to be similar to those responsible for the strongest dust events in the Owens Valley, and may represent the main mechanisms for emission from other closed basins.

    « less
  4. Atmospheric flows are often decomposed into balanced (low frequency) and unbalanced (high frequency) components. For a dry atmosphere, it is known that a single mode, the potential vorticity (PV), is enough to describe the balanced flow and determine its evolution. For a moist atmosphere with phase changes, on the other hand, balanced–unbalanced decompositions involve additional complexity. In this paper, we illustrate that additional balanced modes, beyond PV, arise from the moisture. To support and motivate the discussion, we consider balanced–unbalanced decompositions arising from a simplified Boussinesq numerical simulation and a hemispheric-sized channel simulation using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model. One important role of the balanced moist modes is in the inversion principle that is used to recover the moist balanced flow: rather than traditional PV inversion that involves only the PV variable, it is PV-and- M inversion that is needed, involving M variables that describe the moist balanced modes. In examples of PV-and- M inversion, we show that one can decompose all significant atmospheric variables, including total water or water vapor, into balanced (vortical mode) and unbalanced (inertio-gravity wave) components. The moist inversion, thus, extends the traditional dry PV inversion to allow for moisture and phase changes. Inmore »addition, we illustrate that the moist balanced modes are essentially conserved quantities of the flow, and they act qualitatively as additional PV-like modes of the system that track balanced moisture.« less
  5. Abstract Using multiple independent satellite and reanalysis datasets, we compare relationships between mesoscale convective system (MCS) precipitation intensity P max , environmental moisture, large-scale vertical velocity, and system radius among tropical continental and oceanic regions. A sharp, nonlinear relationship between column water vapor and P max emerges, consistent with nonlinear increases in estimated plume buoyancy. MCS P max increases sharply with increasing boundary layer and lower free tropospheric (LFT) moisture, with the highest P max values originating from MCSs in environments exhibiting a peak in LFT moisture near 750 hPa. MCS P max exhibits strikingly similar behavior as a function of water vapor among tropical land and ocean regions. Yet, while the moisture– P max relationship depends strongly on mean tropospheric temperature, it does not depend on sea surface temperature over ocean or surface air temperature over land. Other P max -dependent factors include system radius, the number of convective cores, and the large-scale vertical velocity. Larger systems typically contain wider convective cores and higher P max , consistent with increased protection from dilution due to dry air entrainment and reduced reevaporation of precipitation. In addition, stronger large-scale ascent generally supports greater precipitation production. Last, temporal lead–lag analysis suggests thatmore »anomalous moisture in the lower–middle troposphere favors convective organization over most regions. Overall, these statistics provide a physical basis for understanding environmental factors controlling heavy precipitation events in the tropics, providing metrics for model diagnosis and guiding physical intuition regarding expected changes to precipitation extremes with anthropogenic warming.« less