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Warm conveyor belts in the ERA-Interim data set (1979-2010). Part I: Climatology and potential vorticity evolution.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Madonna E. H. Wernli H. Joos and O. Martius,
Project The dynamics of North Atlantic warm conveyor belts and their impact on downstream wave propagation and European weather systems
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal J. Climate
Volume (Issue) 27
Page(s) 3 - 26
Title of proceedings J. Climate


A global climatology of warm conveyor belts (WCBs) is presented for the years 1979–2010, based on trajectories calculated with Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data. WCB trajectories are iden- tified as strongly ascending air parcels (600 hPa in 2 days) near extratropical cyclones. Corroborating earlier studies, WCBs are more frequent during winter than summer and they ascend preferentially in the western ocean basins between 258 and 508 latitude. Before ascending, WCB trajectories typically approach from the subtropics in summer and from more midlatitude regions in winter. Considering humidity, cloud water, and potential temperature along WCBs confirms that they experience strong condensation and integrated latent heating during the ascent (typically >20 K). Liquid and ice water contents along WCBs peak at about 700 and 550 hPa, respectively. The mean potential vorticity (PV) evolution shows typical tropospheric values near 900 hPa, followed by an increase to almost 1 potential vorticity unit (PVU) at 700 hPa, and a decrease to less than 0.5 PVU at 300hPa. These low PV values in the upper troposphere constitute significant negative anomalies with amplitudes of 1–3 PVU, which can strongly influence the downstream flow. Considering the low-level diabatic PV production, (i) WCBs starting at low latitudes (<40 deg) are unlikely to attain high PV (due to weak planetary vorticity) although they exhibit the strongest latent heating, and (ii) for those ascending at higher latitudes, a strong vertical heating gradient and high absolute vorticity are both important. This study therefore provides climatological insight into the cloud diabatic formation of significant positive and negative PV anomalies in the extratropical lower and upper troposphere, respectively.