The transition to a subtropical jet regime and its maintenance

Orli Lachmy, Nili Harnik

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An abrupt transition from a merged jet regime to a subtropical jet regime is analyzed using a two-layer modified quasigeostrophic (QG) spherical model. Unlike the common version of QG models, this model includes advection of the zonal mean momentum by the ageostrophic mean meridional circulation, allowing for a relatively realistic momentum balance in the tropics and subtropics. The merged jet is a single jet inside the Ferrel cell created by a merging of the subtropical and eddy-driven jets, and the subtropical jet is a mainly thermally driven jet at the Hadley cell edge. The maintenance of each type of jet depends on the dominant baroclinic modes. In the merged jet regime, the spectrum is dominated by intermediate-scale (wavenumbers 4-6) fast waves at the midlatitudes that grow close to the jet maximum. In the subtropical jet regime, the spectrum is dominated by long (wavenumbers 1-3) slow westward-propagating waves at high latitudes and somewhat weaker intermediate-scale slow waves at the midlatitudes. In the subtropical jet regime, waves equilibrate at weaker amplitudes than in the merged jet regime. A mechanism is found that explains why baroclinic instability is weaker in the subtropical jet regime, although the vertical shear of the mean flow is stronger, which has to do with the lower-level potential vorticity (PV) structure. The relevance of these results to the real atmosphere seams to hold in local zonal sections but not for the zonal mean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1389-1409
Number of pages21
JournalJournals of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


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