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A climatology of Rossby wave breaking and associated moisture transport in the Arctic

Authors: Lori J. Wachowicz*, University of Georgia, Thomas L. Mote, University of Georgia
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Cryosphere
Keywords: Climatology, Arctic, surface energy budget, moisture transport, Rossby wave breaking
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The transport of heat and moisture into the high latitudes is one driver of regional climate due to its influence on the surface energy budget. Heat and moisture flux are enhanced in a region when atmospheric Rossby waves break, which in turn can significantly contribute to both surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic sea ice. Using potential temperature at the dynamic tropopause, we identify Rossby wave breaking events over the Arctic from 1979-2018 in the MERRA-2 reanalysis dataset. Moisture transport and associated atmospheric variables and surface energy budget components are quantified through composite analysis. Results suggest two preferred locations for Rossby wave breaking events in the Northern Hemisphere: the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. When considering types of Rossby wave breaking in these locations, the relative contributions of Rossby wave breaking to the energy budget in the Arctic depend strongly on anticyclonic versus cyclonic wave breaking. Because of this, anticyclonic wave breaking shows higher potential to alter the surface energy budget due to increased turbulent heat fluxes and downwelling longwave radiation associated with moisture transport, and consequently, may be more influential on significant melt events.

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