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Warm conveyor belts in idealized moist baroclinic wave simulations.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2013
Author Schemm S. H. Wernli and L. Papritz,
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. Atmos. Sci.
Volume (Issue) 70
Page(s) 627 - 652
Title of proceedings J. Atmos. Sci.


This idealized modeling study of moist baroclinic waves addresses the formation of moist ascending airstreams, so-called warm conveyor belts (WCBs), their characteristics, and their significance for the downstream flow evolution. Baroclinic wave simulations are performed on the f plane, growing from a finiteamplitude upper-level potential vorticity (PV) perturbation on a zonally uniform jet stream. This nonmodal approach allows for dispersive upstream and downstream development and for studying WCBs in the primary cyclone and the downstream cyclone. A saturation adjustment scheme is used as the only difference between the dry and moist simulations, which are systematically compared using a cyclone-tracking algorithm, with an eddy kinetic energy budget analysis, and from a PV perspective. Using trajectories and a selection criterion of maximum ascent, forward- and rearward-sloping WCBs in the moist simulation are identified. No WCB is identified in the dry simulation. Forward-sloping WCBs originate in the warm sector, move into the frontal fracture region, and ascend over the bent-back front, where maximum latent heating occurs in this simulation. The outflow of these WCBs is located at altitudes with prevailing zonal winds; they hence flow anticyclonically (‘‘forward’’) into the downstream ridge. In case of a slightly weaker ascent, WCBs curve cyclonically (‘‘rearward’’) above the cyclone center. A detailed analysis of the PV evolution along the WCBs reveals PV production in the lower troposphere and destruction in the upper troposphere. Consequently, WCBs transport low-PV air into their outflow region, which contributes to the formation of distinct negative PV anomalies. They, in turn, affect the downstream flow and enhance downstream cyclogenesis.