Baroclinic instability in high latitudes induced by polar vortex: A connection to the arctic oscillation

H. L. Tanaka, Hiroki Tokinaga

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29 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, baroclinic instability of the northern winter atmosphere is investigated in the context of the dynamical interpretation of the Arctic oscillation. The unstable solutions, obtained by a method of 3D normal mode expansion, are compared for observed zonal basic states with strong and weak polar vortices in reference to the Arctic oscillation index. As a result of the eigenvalue problem of the linear stability analysis, a characteristic unstable solution is obtained that dominates in high latitudes when the polar vortex is strong. The mode is called a monopole Charney mode M1, which is similar to an ordinary Charney mode Mc in midlatitudes. In order to understand the origin of the M1 mode, a hypothetical zonal basic state that has only the polar jet with no subtropical jet is analyzed. It is found that the M1 mode in high latitudes is excited by the baroclinicity associated with the polar vortex. The Ml mode in high latitudes is dynamically the same Charney mode as Mc but is excited by the baroclinicity of the polar jet instead of the subtropical jet. As the Mc mode intensifies the subtropical jet by the eddy momentum transfer, the M1 mode transfer eddy momentum to high latitudes to intensify the polar jet. Since M1 mode appears during the strong polar jet and feeds the westerly momentum to the polar jet, there is a positive feedback between the Ml mode and the polar vortex. This positive feedback would produce a persistent strong polar jet, which may in tern result in the occurrence of the annular mode of the Arctic oscillation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-82
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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