According to baroclinic adjustment theory, the isentropic slope maintains its marginal state for baroclinic instability. However, the recent trend of Arctic warming raises the possibility that there could have been a systematic change in the extratropical isentropic slope. In this study, global reanalysis data are used to investigate this possibility. The result shows that tropospheric isentropes north of 50°N have been flattening significantly during winter for the recent 25 years. This trend pattern fluctuates at intraseasonal time scales. An examination of the temporal evolution indicates that it is the planetary-scale (zonal wavenumbers-1-3) eddy heat fluxes, not the synoptic-scale eddy heat fluxes, that flatten the isentropes; synoptic-scale eddy heat fluxes instead respond to the subsequent changes in isentropic slope. This extratropical planetary-scale wave growth is preceded by an enhanced zonal asymmetry of tropical heating and poleward wave activity vectors. A numerical model is used to test if the observed latent heating can generate the observed isentropic slope anomalies. The result shows that the tropical heating indeed contributes to the isentropic slope trend. The agreement between the model solution and the observation improves substantially if extratropical latent heating is also included in the forcing. The model temperature response shows a pattern resembling the warm-Arctic-cold-continent pattern. From these results, it is concluded that the recent flattening trend of isentropic slope north of 508N is mostly caused by planetary-scale eddy activities generated from latent heating, and that this change is accompanied by a warm-Arctic-cold-continent pattern that permeates the entire troposphere.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science