Whitaker, J. S., and R. M. Dole, 1995: Organization of storm tracks in zonally varying flows. J. Atmos. Sci., 52, 1178-1191.


A simple two-layer quasigeostrophic model is employed to investigate the sensitivity of storm tracks to changes in an externally imposed, zonally varying large-scale flow. Zonally asymmetric temperature and horizontal deformation fields are varied systematically in order to compare the effects of baroclinicity and horizontal deformation on storm track dynamics. The sensitivity of the storm tracks to uniform barotropic zonal flows is also examined.

The results show two competing processes for storm track organization, one associated with a local maximum in baroclinicity and the other with a local minimum in horizontal deformation. When the equilibrium state consists of a zonally symmetric temperature field and a barotropic stationary wave, the maximum in synoptic-scale transient eddy energy (storm track) is located in the entrance region of the upper jet just downstream of the point of minimum horizontal deformation. As zonal variations in baroclinicity become large (keeping the upper-layer horizontal deformation constant), the storm track shifts to the jet exit region just downstream of the point of maximum baroclinicity. For flows intermediate between the above cases,that is, having weaker zonal variations in baroclinicity and the same upper-layer deformation, two storm track maxima appear, one located in the jet entrance and the other in the jet exit region.

The results also indicate that the storm tracks are sensitive to changes in a uniform barotropic zonal flow. The presence of a uniform westerly flow extends the storm track and strengthens eddy activity, while the addition of a uniform easterly flow shortens the storm track and dramatically weakens eddy activity. The changes in the magnitudes of eddy activity appear related to differences in the efficiency of nonlinear barotropic decay processes in weakening the eddies in the jet exit region.

Sensitivities of the location of the storm tracks to changes in large-scale flow parameters are well captured by linear calculations, although sensitivities of the strength of the storm tracks are not. For sufficiently strong zonal variations in baroclinicity, two coherent modes of low-frequency variability develop. They are characterized synoptically by 1) a meridional shift, and 2) an extension/contraction as well as a modulation in the strength of the upper-layer jet and storm track.