Tropical and Subtropical Meridional Latent Heat Transports by Disturbances to the Zonal Mean and Their Role in the General Circulation

Shaw, Tiffany Ann; Pauluis, Olivier

The spectrum of meridional latent heat transport in the tropics and subtropics by disturbances to the zonal mean during all seasons is analyzed. The transport is divided into stationary and transient planetary- and subplanetary-scale eddy contributions. The stationary transport is largest in the subtropical lower troposphere and dominates the overall transport during summer. It is of planetary scale and the zonal scale of the transport corresponds to the number of subtropical anticyclones. The transient transport is large from the surface up to the midtroposphere and from the tropics to subpolar latitudes. It is dominated by the subplanetary-scale contribution during all seasons. Westward (eastward)- propagating waves dominate the transport in the tropics (subtropics and midlatitudes). The analysis reveals that, while the total eddy meridional latent heat transport is seamless from the deep tropics to the pole, it represents the sum of transport by distinct dynamical features. The role of the eddy meridional latent heat transport in the moist isentropic circulation is assessed using the statistical transformed Eulerian mean formulation, which converts the eddy transports into streamfunctions. The addition of the eddy latent heat streamfunction to the Eulerian mean plus eddy sensible heat streamfunction increases the mass transport by a factor of 2–3 in the subtropics and midlatitudes. The eddy transport is found to dominate the transport across the subtropical boundary. During Northern Hemisphere summer there is virtually no circulation in the absence of eddy latent heat transport. The results highlight the important role of latent heat transport by subtropical anticyclones and tropical and baroclinic waves in the general circulation.


Also Published In

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences

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