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On the 'downward control' of extratropical diabatic circulations by eddy-induced mean zonal forces

Haynes, P. H., McIntyre, M. E., Shepherd, T. G. ORCID:, Marks, C. J. and Shine, K. P. ORCID: (1991) On the 'downward control' of extratropical diabatic circulations by eddy-induced mean zonal forces. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 48 (4). pp. 651-678. ISSN 1520-0469

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/1520-0469(1991)048<0651:OTCOED>2.0.CO;2


The situation considered is that of a zonally symmetric model of the middle atmosphere subject to a given quasi-steady zonal force F̄, conceived to be the result of irreversible angular momentum transfer due to the upward propagation and breaking of Rossby and gravity waves together with any other dissipative eddy effects that may be relevant. The model's diabatic heating is assumed to have the qualitative character of a relaxation toward some radiatively determined temperature field. To the extent that the force F̄ may be regarded as given, and the extratropical angular momentum distribution is realistic, the extratropical diabatic mass flow across a given isentropic surface may be regarded as controlled exclusively by the F̄ distribution above that surface (implying control by the eddy dissipation above that surface and not, for instance, by the frequency of tropopause folding below). This “downward control” principle expresses a critical part of the dynamical chain of cause and effect governing the average rate at which photochemical products like ozone become available for folding into, or otherwise descending into, the extratropical troposphere. The dynamical facts expressed by the principle are also relevant, for instance, to understanding the seasonal-mean rate of upwelling of water vapor to the summer mesopause, and the interhemispheric differences in stratospheric tracer transport. The robustness of the principle is examined when F̄ is time-dependent. For a global-scale, zonally symmetric diabatic circulation with a Brewer-Dobson-like horizontal structure given by the second zonally symmetric Hough mode, with Rossby height HR = 13 km in an isothermal atmosphere with density scale height H = 7 km, the vertical partitioning of the unsteady part of the mass circulation caused by fluctuations in F̄ confined to a shallow layer LF̄ is always at least 84% downward. It is 90% downward when the force fluctuates sinusoidally on twice the radiative relaxation timescale and 95% if five times slower. The time-dependent adjustment when F̄ is changed suddenly is elucidated, extending the work of Dickinson (1968), when the atmosphere is unbounded above and below. Above the forcing, the adjustment is characterized by decay of the meridional mass circulation cell at a rate proportional to the radiative relaxation rate τr−1 divided by {1 + (4H2/HR2)}. This decay is related to the boundedness of the angular momentum that can be taken up by the finite mass of air above LF̄ without causing an ever-increasing departure from thermal wind balance. Below the forcing, the meridional mass circulation cell penetrates downward at a speed τr−1 HR2/H. For the second Hough mode, the time for downward penetration through one density scale height is about 6 days if the radiative relaxation time is 20 days, the latter being representative of the lower stratosphere. At any given altitude, a steady state is approached. The effect of a rigid lower boundary on the time-dependent adjustment is also considered. If a frictional planetary boundary layer is present then a steady state is ultimately approached everywhere, with the mass circulation extending downward from LF̄ and closing via the boundary layer. Satellite observations of temperature and ozone are used in conjunction with a radiative transfer scheme to estimate the altitudes from which the lower stratospheric diabatic vertical velocity is controlled by the effective F̄ in the real atmosphere. The data appear to indicate that about 80% of the effective control is usually exerted from below 40 km but with significant exceptions up to 70 km (in the high latitude southern hemispheric winter). The implications for numerical modelling of chemical transport are noted.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:32976
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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