Detection of coherent airstreams using cluster analysis: application to an extratropical cyclone
Hart, N. C. G., Gray, S. L. and Clark, P. A. (2015) Detection of coherent airstreams using cluster analysis: application to an extratropical cyclone. Monthly Weather Review, 143 (9). pp. 3518-3531. ISSN 1520-0493
To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/MWR-D-14-00382.1
Flow in geophysical fluids is commonly summarized by coherent streams, for example conveyor belt flows in extratropical cyclones or jet streaks in the upper troposphere. Typically, parcel trajectories are calculated from the flow field and subjective thresholds are used to distinguish coherent streams of interest. This methodology contribution develops a more objective approach to distinguish coherent airstreams within extratropical cyclones. Agglomerative clustering is applied to trajectories along with a method to identify the optimal number of cluster classes. The methodology is applied to trajectories associated with the low-level jets of a well-studied extratropical cyclone. For computational efficiency, a constraint that trajectories must pass through these jet regions is applied prior to clustering; the partitioning into different airstreams is then performed by the agglomerative clustering. It is demonstrated that the methodology can identify the salient flow structures of cyclones: the warm and cold conveyor belts. A test focusing on the airstreams terminating at the tip of the bent-back front further demonstrates the success of the method in that it can distinguish fine-scale flow structure such as descending sting jet airstreams.