AbstractInteraction between a train of transient waves and a diffluent westerly jet is examined using a regional quasigeostrophic equivalent barotropic model with a (nearly) binary potential vorticity (PV) distribution. Unlike most previous studies, but consistent with the observed extratropical tropopause, cross-stream variation in the layer thickness is allowed to contribute to the discontinuity in PV. In all cases examined, short (i.e., barotropic) edge waves are continuously forced in the upstream, then migrate downstream, and eventually exit the domain. A quasilinear 1D theory based on the conservation of local wave activity predicts that no steady wave train can be maintained where the westerly zonal flow is decelerated below one-half of the initial value, at which point the wave envelope develops a migratory shock analogous to the Lighthill–Whitham–Richards traffic flow problem. Fully nonlinear high-resolution 2D calculations show that the wave train indeed undergoes a significant transformation once the zonal flow along the jet axis is decelerated below the threshold. The subsequent flow evolution depends on the nature of the discontinuity in the basic-state PV. When the discontinuity is entirely due to the vorticity profile, waves are compressed and partially deflected sideways but no complete blocking occurs. When the discontinuity in PV is augmented by the layer thickness variation, the incident wave train is blocked and split into two tracks at the stagnation point, eventually leading to a formation of a modon-like vortex pair, reminiscent of an atmospheric blocking. Implications for low-frequency variability of the atmosphere are discussed.
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences – American Meteorological Society
Published: Jul 7, 2017
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