Two types of baroclinic life cycles during the Southern Hemisphere summer

Woosok Moon, Steven B. Feldstein

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9 Scopus citations


Baroclinic eddy life cycles of the Southern Hemisphere (SH) summer are investigated with NCEP - NCAR reanalysis data. A composite analysis is performed for the years 1980 through 2004. Individual life cycles are identified by local maxima in synoptic-scale eddy energy. Two types of baroclinic life cycles are examined, each defined by the strength of the barotropic energy conversion 2 days prior to the maximum baroclinic growth. For one life cycle, the barotropic conversion is anomalously weak before the maximum baroclinic growth; for the other, the barotropic conversion is anomalously strong. These two life cycles are referred to as the weak barotropic (WB) and strong barotropic (SB) life cycles. The analyses for the WB life cycle find that a poleward anomalous wave activity flux is observed within the SH tropics and subtropics just before the initial growth of the synoptic-scale eddies. In contrast, the SB life cycle exhibits an equatorward anomalous wave activity flux prior to the initial wave development. For the WB life cycle, these changes in the wave activity flux are shown to induce a mean meridional circulation that weakens and broadens the midlatitude zonal mean jet and reduces the baroclinicity in the midlatitude lower troposphere. Opposite characteristics are observed for the SB life cycle. Since the eddy growth rate is found to be greater in the WB life cycle, these results suggest that the influences of the barotropic governor mechanism (a reduction in horizontal shear coinciding with more rapidly growing baroclinic eddies) and the midlatitude baroclinicity oppose each other at the beginning of the life cycle, with the former being dominant. Both the WB and SB life cycles coincide with anomalous tropical convection. For the WB life cycle, there is a strengthening of the convection over the Maritime Continent, and for the SB life cycle there is a weakening in the convection over the same region. These results suggest that the two types of baroclinic life cycles are ultimately triggered by convection in the tropics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1401-1417
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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