Estimating the Lowest Latitude of Baroclinic Growth

Oren Peles, Orli Lachmy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Midlatitude storm tracks are the most prominent feature of the midlatitude climate. The equatorward boundary of the storm tracks marks the transition from the dry subtropics to the temperate midlatitudes. This boundary can be estimated as the lowest latitude of efficient baroclinic growth. Scaling theories for the lowest latitude of baroclinic growth were previously suggested based on the domain-averaged parameters of the Eady growth rate and supercriticality. In this study, a new estimate for the lowest latitude of baroclinic growth is proposed, based on the assumption that baroclinic growth is limited by the vertical scale of eddy fluxes. An equation for the eddy displacement flux is obtained from which the vertical scale is calculated, given the zonal-mean zonal wind and temperature profiles. It is found that the vertical scale of the eddy displacement flux and the observed baroclinic conversion rate decrease rapidly toward the equator around the same latitude. The seasonal cycle of the lowest latitude of baroclinic growth, calculated from the observed baroclinic conversion rate, is compared with the theoretical estimates. The estimates based on the vertical scale of the eddy displacement flux and supercriticality agree well with the observed lowest latitude of baroclinic growth. In contrast, the estimate based on the Eady growth rate is located around 108–158 equatorward. The estimate of the lowest latitude of baroclinic growth may be used in future studies for explaining variations in the properties of the storm track, the Hadley cell edge, and the subtropical jet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1401-1414
Number of pages14
JournalJournals of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments. This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 1658/18). The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive remarks that helped improve the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Meteorological Society. All rights reserved.


  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Baroclinic flows
  • Hadley circulation
  • Instability
  • Storm tracks


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