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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 28, issue 1
Ann. Geophys., 28, 75–87, 2010
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-28-75-2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 28, 75–87, 2010
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-28-75-2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  15 Jan 2010

15 Jan 2010

The Empirical Forcing Function as a tool for the diagnosis of large-scale atmospheric anomalies

C. Andrade1,2, J. A. Santos3, J. G. Pinto4, J. Corte-Real2, and S. Leite3 C. Andrade et al.
  • 1Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal
  • 2ICAAM: Group Water, Soil and Climate, University of Évora, Portugal
  • 3CITAB, University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
  • 4Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, University of Cologne, Germany

Abstract. The time-mean quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity equation of the atmospheric flow on isobaric surfaces can explicitly include an atmospheric (internal) forcing term of the stationary-eddy flow. In fact, neglecting some non-linear terms in this equation, this forcing can be mathematically expressed as a single function, called Empirical Forcing Function (EFF), which is equal to the material derivative of the time-mean potential vorticity. Furthermore, the EFF can be decomposed as a sum of seven components, each one representing a forcing mechanism of different nature. These mechanisms include diabatic components associated with the radiative forcing, latent heat release and frictional dissipation, and components related to transient eddy transports of heat and momentum. All these factors quantify the role of the transient eddies in forcing the atmospheric circulation. In order to assess the relevance of the EFF in diagnosing large-scale anomalies in the atmospheric circulation, the relationship between the EFF and the occurrence of strong North Atlantic ridges over the Eastern North Atlantic is analyzed, which are often precursors of severe droughts over Western Iberia. For such events, the EFF pattern depicts a clear dipolar structure over the North Atlantic; cyclonic (anticyclonic) forcing of potential vorticity is found upstream (downstream) of the anomalously strong ridges. Results also show that the most significant components are related to the diabatic processes. Lastly, these results highlight the relevance of the EFF in diagnosing large-scale anomalies, also providing some insight into their interaction with different physical mechanisms.

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