Seamless Poleward Atmospheric Energy Transports and Implications for the Hadley Circulation

Kevin E. Trenberth, David P. Stepaniak
2003 Journal of Climate  
A detailed vertically integrated atmospheric heat and energy budget is presented along with estimated heat budgets at the surface and top-of-atmosphere for the subtropics. It is shown that the total energy transports are remarkably seamless in spite of greatly varying mechanisms. From the Tropics to about 31Њ latitude, the primary transport mechanisms are the Hadley and Walker overturning circulations. In the extratropics the energy transports are carried out by baroclinic eddies broadly
more » ... ed into storm tracks and quasi-stationary waves that covary in a symbiotic way as the location and activity in storm tracks are determined by, and in turn help maintain through eddy transports, the quasi-stationary flow. In the upward branch of the Hadley cell, the predominant diabatic process is latent heating that results from convergence of moisture by the circulation itself. Hence large poleward transports of dry static energy are compensated by equatorward transports of latent energy, resulting in a modest poleward transport of moist static energy. The subsidence warming in the downward branch is compensated by cooling in the subtropics that mainly arises from energy transport to higher latitudes by transient baroclinic eddies that are stronger in the winter hemisphere. Effectively, the outgoing longwave radiation to space is distributed over middle and high latitudes and is not limited to the clear dry regions in the subtropics. Further, some of the radiative cooling in the subtropics is a consequence of the circulation. Hence the cooling by transient eddies in the subtropics is a fundamental driver of the observed Hadley circulation and realizes the seamless transport from Tropics to extratropics, while tropical sea surface temperatures over the oceans determine where the upward branch is located. The relatively clear skies in the subtropics further provide for ample absorption of solar radiation at the surface where it feeds strong evaporation, which exceeds precipitation, and supplies the equatorward flow of latent energy into the upward branch of the Hadley circulation as well as the poleward transports into midlatitude storm tracks. The evaporation is sufficiently strong that it is also compensated by a subsurface ocean heat transport that in turn is driven by the Hadley circulation surface winds.
doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2003)016<3706:spaeta>;2 fatcat:dnlyyimq7jdf3isjnpg43ut6ze