Moist Recirculation and Water Vapor Transport on Dry Isentropes

Shaw, Tiffany Ann; Laliberte, Frederic; Pauluis, Olivier

An analysis of the overturning circulation in dry isentropic coordinates using reanalysis data is presented. The meridional mass fluxes on surfaces of constant dry potential temperature but distinct equivalent potential temperature are separated into southward and northward contributions. The separation identifies thermodynamically distinct mass fluxes moving in opposite directions. The eddy meridional water vapor transport is shown to be associated with large poleward and equatorward mass fluxes occurring at the same value of dry potential temperature but different equivalent potential temperature. These mass fluxes, referred to here as the moist recirculation, are associated with an export of water vapor from the subtropics connecting the Hadley cell to the midlatitude storm tracks. The poleward branch of the moist recirculation occurs at mean equivalent potential temperatures comparable to upper tropospheric dry potential temperature values, indicating that typical poleward-moving air parcels can ascend to the tropopause. The analysis suggests that these air parcels ascend on the equatorward side of storm tracks by following moist isentropes reminiscent of upright deep convection, while on the poleward side their moist isentropes are indicative of large-scale slantwise convection. In the equatorward branch, the analysis describes typical air parcels that follow their dry isentropes until they get injected into the boundary layer where they are subsequently moistened. The moist recirculation along with the mean equivalent potential temperature of its poleward and equatorward components are used to recover an approximate overturning circulation on moist isentropes from which it is shown that the moist recirculation accounts for the difference between the meridional circulation averaged on dry and on moist isentropes.


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Also Published In

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
April 12, 2013