The importance of moisture distribution for the growth and energetics of mid-latitude systems
Pavan, V., Hall, N., Valdes, P. and Blackburn, M. (1999) The importance of moisture distribution for the growth and energetics of mid-latitude systems. Annales Geophysicae, 17 (2). pp. 242-256. ISSN 0992-7689
To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00585-999-0242-y
A primitive equation model is used to study the sensitivity of baroclinic wave life cycles to the initial latitude-height distribution of humidity. Diabatic heating is parametrized only as a consequence of condensation in regions of large-scale ascent. Experiments are performed in which the initial relative humidity is a simple function of model level, and in some cases latitude bands are specified which are initially relatively dry. It is found that the presence of moisture can either increase or decrease the peak eddy kinetic energy of the developing wave, depending on the initial moisture distribution. A relative abundance of moisture at mid-latitudes tends to weaken the wave, while a relative abundance at low latitudes tends to strengthen it. This sensitivity exists because competing processes are at work. These processes are described in terms of energy box diagnostics. The most realistic case lies on the cusp of this sensitivity. Further physical parametrizations are then added, including surface fluxes and upright moist convection. These have the effect of increasing wave amplitude, but the sensitivity to initial conditions of relative humidity remains. Finally, 'control' and 'doubled CO2' life cycles are performed, with initial conditions taken from the time-mean zonal-mean output of equilibrium GCM experiments. The attenuation of the wave resulting from reduced baroclinicity is more pronounced than any effect due to changes in initial moisture.