North Atlantic extratropical rossby wave breaking during the warm season: Wave life cycle and role of diabatic heating

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This study investigates the life cycle of anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking during the extended warm season (July-October) over the North Atlantic basin. It was found that upper-tropospheric breaking waves are coupled with lower-level perturbations and can be traced back to a wave train that extends from the North Pacific. The overturning of potential vorticity (PV) contours during wave breaking is associated with the rapid development of an upper-level ridge, which occurs along the east coast of North America and over a warm and moist airstream. The ridge development is investigated using the PV budget analysis and trajectory analysis. The PV budget analysis suggests that the horizontal advection of PV by the perturbed flow dictates the movement and the later decay of the ridge. The ridge amplification, opposed by the horizontal advection of PV, is driven by the vertical advection and the diabatic production of PV, both of which are connected to diabatic heating. The vital role of diabatic heating in the ridge amplification is corroborated by the trajectory analysis. The analysis suggests that diabatic heating reduces the static stability near the tropopause and contributes to the ridge-related negative PV anomalies. The role of diabatic heating in anticyclonic and cyclonic wave breaking in other regions is also discussed. The findings suggest that moist diabatic processes, which were often excluded from the earlier studies of wave breaking, are crucial for Rossby wave breaking during the warm season. The updated understanding of wave breaking may benefit weather forecasting and climate predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-712
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Diabatic heating
  • Extratropical cyclones
  • Forecasting
  • North Atlantic Ocean
  • Summer/warm season
  • Wave breaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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