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On the Dynamical Mechanism of the Southern Annular Mode, Including Seasonality: Inter-Annual Variability: and Trends

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posted on 2021-11-10, 01:42 authored by Kidston, Joseph

This thesis considers the dynamics of the leading mode of extratropical atmospheric variability, the so-called annular modes, with a focus on the Southern Hemisphere (SH). Various aspects of the annular modes are addressed, from the underlying mechanism, to variability at progressively longer time-scales; ranging from the seasonality; to inter-annual variability; to the observed and predicted trends. The underlying mechanism of the annular modes is approached in the context of the recent theory that eddy-driven jets may be self-maintaining. We show that the leading mode of variability is associated with changes in the eddy source latitude, and that the latitude of the eddy source region is organised by the mean flow. This is consistent with the idea that the annular modes should be thought of as the meridional wandering of a self-maintaining jet, and that a positive baroclinic feedback prolongs these vacillations. Further, the degree to which the eddy-driven flow is self-maintaining determines the time-scale of the leading mode in a simplified general circulation model (GCM). Preliminary results indicate that the same dynamics are important in the real atmosphere. Secondly the seasonality of the southern annular mode (SAM) is investigated. As with previous studies, during summer the SAM is found to be largely zonally symmetric, whereas during winter it exhibits increased zonal wave number 2-3 variability. This is consistent with seasonal variations in the mean-state, and it is argued that the seasonal cycle of near-surface temperature over the Australian continent plays an important role, making the eddy driven jet, and hence the SAM, more zonally symmetric during summer than winter. During winter, the SAM exhibits little variability over the South Pacific and southeast of Australia. Dynamical reasons for this behaviour are discussed. This seasonality is discussed in the context of New Zealand climate, where it is shown that the variability in rainfall and temperature data are impacted by the large-scale seasonality of the SAM. Thirdly the zonally symmetric response of the SH to the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is examined. Such a response is only observed in the mid-latitudes during austral summer and autumn, the same period when the climatological mean flow and storm-track is most zonally symmetric. During all seasons the ENSO stationary wave, or Pacific South American mode affects the baroclinicity at 850 hPa in the South Pacific region, so that during La Nina (El Nino) events the baroclinicity is increased (reduced). During summer La Nina events the anomalous transient eddy activity is increased over the entire meridional extent of the storm-track in the South Pacific region, whereas down-stream, over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the storm track moves poleward. It is suggested that during La Nina events, more vigorous eddy activity in the South Pacific leads to a poleward shift of the storm-track immediately down-stream, in the East Pacific. During summer and autumn the location of the storm-track in the Pacific region may be communicated around the hemisphere because there is a single climatological storm track, and so eddies can propagate from the Pacific region to the Atlantic region. There is some evidence of these dynamics in that the anomalous eddy activity associated with La Nina events begins in the South Pacific region and subsequently propagates zonally. Finally the cause of the poleward shift of the mid-latitude eddy-driven jet streams under global warming is considered. GCMs indicate that the recent poleward shift of the eddy-driven jet streams will continue throughout the 21st Century. Here it is shown that the shift is associated with an increase in the eddy length-scale. The cause of the increase in eddy length-scale is discussed. Larger eddies are shown to propagate preferentially poleward, and it is argued that this may induce a corresponding shift in the mean flow that they maintain. The mechanism is investigated using a simplified GCM.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Renwick, Jim; McGregor, Jim