Seasonal and intraseasonal variability of large-scale Barotropic modes

J. S. Frederiksen, Grant Branstator

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The barotropic instability of time-dependent observed basic states that are periodic, with a period of 1 yr covering the complete annual cycle, is analyzed using Floquet theory. The time-dependent basic state is constructed from observed monthly averaged 300-mb streamfunction fields linearly interpolated between the different months. The propagator over the 1-yr period is constructed, and its eigenvalues and some of the fastest-growing eigenvectors, termed finite-time normal modes (FTNMs), are calculated. The fast-growing FTNMs are large-scale modes with generally largest amplitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. They exhibit intraseasonal variability in their structures, as well as longer period variations, and their amplification rates vary with time. The fastest-growing FTNM has its largest growth rate in early northern winter and its amplification has maximum cumulative effect in boreal spring when the equatorward penetration of this disturbance is also the largest. The other fast-growing FTNMs also have largest amplitudes during the first half of the year. In all months, there are fast-growing normal modes of the monthly averaged stationary basic states that have large pattern correlations with the fastest-growing FTNM for the time-dependent basic state. For some months the individual normal modes experience dramatic local variations in growth rate; these bursts of relative growth and decay are associated with intramodal interference effects between the eastward and westward propagating components of a single traveling normal mode. Both intramodal and intermodal interference effects play significant roles in the evolution of the fastest-growing FTNM, particularly in boreal spring. The behavior of FTNM instabilities is also examined in simplified situations including a semianalytical Floquet model in which the space and time dependencies of the stability matrix are separable. In this model, temporal variations in growth rates are directly linked to seasonality in the intensity of the climatological state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-69
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes

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