Mountain Torques and Northern Hemisphere Low-Frequency Variability. Part I: Hemispheric Aspects

Lott, François; Robertson, Andrew W.; Ghil, Michael

The NCEP–NCAR reanalysis dataset for 1958–97 is used to analyze intraseasonal variations in mountain torques and the large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns associated with them. Spectral analysis of the atmospheric angular momentum (AAM) budget shows that the dominant variations of mountain torque have periodicities near 30 days and shorter, while the dominant AAM variations occur in the 40–60-day band. This difference is due to the 40–60-day AAM variations being primarily related to equatorial processes, while mountain torque variations are associated mostly with extratropical processes. The Northern Hemisphere (NH) mountain torque has enhanced power and significant spectral peaks in the 20–30-day band. The signal in this band accounts for 33% of the NH mountain torque variance, once the seasonal cycle has been removed. Lag composites of the NH 700-hPa geopotential heights based on the 20–30-day mountain torque signal show the latter to be associated with coherent large-scale patterns that resemble low-frequency oscillations identified in this band by previous authors. The composite patterns that are in phase quadrature with the 20–30-day NH mountain torque have a pronounced zonally symmetric component. These patterns are associated with substantial AAM variations, arguably driven by the NH mountain torque in this band. Principal component (PC) analysis of the NH 700-hPa heights shows that, in the 20–30-day band, the mountain torque is also in phase quadrature with the two leading PCs; the first corresponds to changes in the midlatitude jet intensity near the subtropics, while the second corresponds to the Arctic Oscillation. The relationships with AAM of the latter essentially occurs through the mass term. Mountain torques are, furthermore, nearly in phase with dominant patterns of low-frequency variability that exhibit substantial pressure gradients across the Rockies and the Tibetan Plateau.


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Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences

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Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Published Here
August 14, 2012