Climatology of intrusions into the tropical upper troposphere

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Abstract

Regions of upper tropospheric equatorial westerly winds, observed over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans during northern fall to spring, are important for extratropical-tropical interactions. This paper focuses on one feature of these “westerly ducts” that has received relatively little attention to date: the occurrence of Rossby wave breaking events that transport tongues of extratropical air deep into the tropics, mix tropical and subtropical air, and can affect deep convection. A climatology of these “intrusion” events formed from 20 years of meteorological analyses shows a strong dependence on the basic-state flow. Notably, intrusion events are found to occur almost exclusively within westerly ducts, with more events in the presence of stronger equatorial westerlies. It is also found that there is strong interannual variability in the frequency of Pacific events, with fewer events during the warm phases of ENSO (consistent with the changes in the basic flow). Since these intrusion events laterally mix trace constituents and have been linked to tropical convection, their spatial and temporal variability may cause related variability in the distribution of trace constituents and tropical convection.

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