The Walker circulation, diabatic heating, and outgoing longwave radiation

Wednesday, 20 April 2016: 2:15 PM
Miramar 1 & 2 (The Condado Hilton Plaza)
Samuel N. Stechmann, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; and H. R. Ogrosky

For the tropical atmosphere on planetary scales, it is common to model the circulation using strong damping. Here with new data analysis techniques, evidence suggests that damping can actually be neglected. Specifically, near the equator, the east-west overturning circulation is in agreement with the undamped wave response to atmospheric heating. To estimate the heating, satellite observations of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) are used. Frequently, OLR is used as a heuristic indicator of cloudiness. Here the results further suggest that OLR variations are actually proportional to diabatic heating variations, with a proportionality constant of 18 W m-2 (K d-1)-1. While the agreement holds best over long time averages of years or decades, it also holds over shorter periods of one season or 1 month. Consequently, it is suggested that the strength of the Walker circulationĀ—and its evolution in timeĀ—could be estimated using satellite data.
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