Eddy-zonal flow interactions and the persistence of the zonal index

Edwin P. Gerber, Geoffrey K. Vallis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An idealized atmospheric general circulation model is used to investigate the factors controlling the time scale of intraseasonal (10-100 day) variability of the extratropical atmosphere. Persistence on these time scales is found in patterns of variability that characterize meridional vacillations of the extratropical jet. Depending on the degree of asymmetry in the model forcing, patterns take on similar properties to the zonal index, annular modes, and North Atlantic Oscillation. It is found that the time scale of jet meandering is distinct from the obvious internal model time scales, suggesting that interaction between synoptic eddies and the large-scale flow establish a separate, intraseasonal time scale. A mechanism is presented by which eddy heat and momentum transport couple to retard motion of the jet, slowing its meridional variation and thereby extending the persistence of zonal index and annular mode anomalies. The feedback is strong and quite sensitive to model parameters when the model forcing is zonally uniform. However, the time scale of jet variation drops and nearly all sensitivity to parameters is lost when zonal asymmetries, in the form of topography and thermal perturbations that approximate land-sea contrast, are introduced. A diagnostic on the zonal structure of the zonal index provides intuition on the physical nature of the index and annular modes and hints at why zonal asymmetries limit the eddy-mean flow interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3296-3311
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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