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A “cold path” for the Gulf Stream–troposphere connection

Vannière, B., Czaja, A., Dacre, H. and Woollings, T. (2017) A “cold path” for the Gulf Stream–troposphere connection. Journal of Climate, 30 (4). pp. 1363-1379. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0749.1


The mechanism by which the Gulf Stream sea surface temperature (SST) front anchors a band of precipitation on its warm edge is still a matter of debate, and little is known about how synoptic activity contributes to the mean state. In the present study, the influence of the SST front on precipitation is investigated during the course of a single extratropical cyclone using a regional configuration of the Met Office Unified Model. The comparison of a control run with a simulation in which SST gradients were smoothed brought the following conclusions: a band of precipitation is reproduced for a single extratropical cyclone, and the response to the SST gradient is dominated by a change of convective precipitation in the cold sector of the storm. Several climatological features described by previous studies, such as surface wind convergence on the warm edge or a meridional circulation cell across the SST front, are also reproduced at synoptic time scales in the cold sector. Based on these results, a simple boundary layer model is proposed to explain the convective and dynamical response to the SST gradient in the cold sector. In this model, cold and dry air parcels acquire more buoyancy over a sharp SST gradient and become more convectively unstable. The convection sets a pressure anomaly over the entire depth of the boundary layer that drives wind convergence. This case study offers a new pathway by which the SST gradient can anchor a climatological band of precipitation.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:68988
Uncontrolled Keywords:North Atlantic Ocean; Cold fronts; Extratropical cyclones; Boundary layer; Air-sea interaction
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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