The Troposphere-to-Stratosphere Transition in Kinetic Energy Spectra and Nonlinear Spectral Fluxes as Seen in ECMWF Analyses

B. H. Burgess*, Andre R. Erler, Theodore G. Shepherd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Global horizontal wavenumber kinetic energy spectra and spectral fluxes of rotational kinetic energy and enstrophy are computed for a range of vertical levels using a T799 ECMWF operational analysis. Above 250 hPa, the kinetic energy spectra exhibit a distinct break between steep and shallow spectral ranges, reminiscent of dual power-law spectra seen in aircraft data and high-resolution general circulation models. The break separates a large-scale "balanced" regime in which rotational flow strongly dominates divergent flow and a mesoscale "unbalanced" regime where divergent energy is comparable to or larger than rotational energy. Between 230 and 100 hPa, the spectral break shifts to larger scales (from n = 60 to n = 20, where n is spherical harmonic index) as the balanced component of the flow preferentially decays. The location of the break remains fairly stable throughout the stratosphere. The spectral break in the analysis occurs at somewhat larger scales than the break seen in aircraft data. Nonlinear spectral fluxes defined for the rotational component of the flow maximize between about 300 and 200 hPa. Large-scale turbulence thus centers on the extratropical tropopause region, within which there are two distinct mechanisms of upscale energy transfer: eddy-eddy interactions sourcing the transient energy peak in synoptic scales, and zonal mean-eddy interactions forcing the zonal flow. A well-defined downscale enstrophy flux is clearly evident at these altitudes. In the stratosphere, the transient energy peak moves to planetary scales and zonal mean-eddy interactions become dominant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-687
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Volume70
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

Keywords

  • STRATIFIED TURBULENCE
  • GEOSTROPHIC TURBULENCE
  • CLIMATE PREDICTION
  • ATMOSPHERE
  • MODEL
  • TEMPERATURE
  • REGRESSION
  • AIRCRAFT
  • BREAKING
  • WEATHER

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