The equatorial response to higher latitude forcing
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/1520-0469(2000)057<1197:TERTHL>2.0.CO;2
The classic view, following Charney and Webster and Holton, is that significant midlatitude forcing of the Tropics can be expected only in regions with westerly winds in the upper troposphere because it is only in these regions that stationary Rossby waves will be able to propagate toward the equator. Here it is shown that higherlatitude forcing can project directly onto equatorial waves and give a significant tropical response in both easterly and westerly tropical flow. The equatorial response to higher-latitude forcing is considered in the context of a dry atmosphere and a localized higher-latitude forcing with eastward or westward phase speed. Previous ideas of the Doppler shifting of equatorial waves by zonal flows are extended to include consideration of a forcing involving a range of zonal wavenumbers. A Gill-type model suggests that there can be significant forcing of equatorial waves by either vorticity forcing or heating in higher latitudes. In agreement with the theory, the Kelvin wave response to eastward forcing is peaked at high frequencies/short periods but reduces only slowly with decreasing frequency. Primitive-equation experiments confirm the strong equatorial response associated with a deep Kelvin wave for forcing in midlatitudes. The response is strongest in the Eastern Hemisphere with its equatorial, upper-tropospheric easterlies. The possible importance of this equatorial response in the organization of large-scale, deep tropical convection and the initiation of the Madden–Julian oscillation is discussed. The ability of westward forcing in higher latitudes to trigger Rossby–gravity and Rossby waves is found in the primitive-equation model to be significant but rather less robust. These wave signatures are clearest in the lower troposphere. For shorter periods the Rossby–gravity wave dominates, and for upper-tropospheric forcing, downward and eastward wave activity propagation is seen. Upper-tropospheric westerlies are found to enhance the response.