Upper-tropospheric inversion and easterly jet in the tropics

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Abstract

[1] Shipboard radiosonde measurements revealed a persistent temperature inversion layer with a thickness of ∼200 m at 12–13 km in a nonconvective region over the tropical eastern Pacific, along 2°N, in September 1999. Simultaneous relative humidity measurements indicated that the thin inversion layer was located at the top of a very wet layer with a thickness of 3–4 km, which was found to originate from the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) to the north. Radiative transfer calculations suggested that this upper tropospheric inversion (UTI) was produced and maintained by strong longwave cooling in this wet layer. A strong easterly jet stream was also observed at 12–13 km, centered around 4°–5°N. This easterly jet was in the thermal wind balance, with meridional temperature gradients produced by the cloud and radiative processes in the ITCZ and the wet outflow. Furthermore, the jet, in turn, acted to spread inversions further downstream through the transport of radiatively active water vapor. This feedback mechanism may explain the omnipresence of temperature inversions and layering structures in trace gases in the tropical troposphere. Examination of high-resolution radiosonde data at other sites in the tropical Pacific indicates that similar UTIs often appear around 12–15 km. The UTI around 12–15 km may thus be characterized as one of the “climatological” inversions in the tropical troposphere, forming the lower boundary of the so-called tropical tropopause layer, where the tropospheric air is processed photochemically and microphysically before entering the stratosphere.

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