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The Effect of Lower Stratospheric Shear on Baroclinic Instability

Wittman, Matthew A. H.; Charlton, Andrew J.; Polvani, Lorenzo M.

Using a hierarchy of models, and observations, the effect of vertical shear in the lower stratosphere on baroclinic instability in the tropospheric midlatitude jet is examined. It is found that increasing stratospheric shear increases the phase speed of growing baroclinic waves, increases the growth rate of modes with low synoptic wavenumbers, and decreases the growth rate of modes with higher wavenumbers. The meridional structure of the linear modes, and their acceleration of the zonal mean jet, changes with increasing stratospheric shear, but in a way that apparently contradicts the observed stratosphere–troposphere northern annular mode (NAM) connection. This contradiction is resolved at finite amplitude. In nonlinear life cycle experiments it is found that increasing stratospheric shear, without changing the jet structure in the troposphere, produces a transition from anticyclonic (LC1) to cyclonic (LC2) behavior at wavenumber 7. All life cycles with wavenumbers lower than 7 are LC1, and all with wavenumber greater than 7 are LC2. For the LC1 life cycles, the effect of increasing stratospheric shear is to increase the poleward displacement of the zonal mean jet by the eddies, which is consistent with the observed stratosphere–troposphere NAM connection. Finally, it is found that the connection between high stratospheric shear and high-tropospheric NAM is present by NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data.


Also Published In

Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences