Surface temperature in an idealized atmospheric general circulation model in two simulations. Bottom: a simulation with Earth's rotation period (24 hours). Top: a simulation with a 4 times faster rotation period (6 hours). In the northern hemisphere in the simulations, a constant localized heat flux is imposed at the surface (seen in the simulation as the redder triangular patch); as a control case, the same total heat flux is imposed in the southern hemisphere, but spread out over all longitudes.
For faster rotation periods, Rossby waves (atmospheric waves which are generated because of Earth's rotation) generally have smaller length scales. Varying the rotation periods allowed us to gain insight into how Rossby waves affect surface temperatures. This led to a new theory of how heating over warm ocean water leads to atmospheric cooling, namely, by generating waves that form a cold plume to the west of the heating region. The cold plume is evident as the anomalously cold region to the west of the localized heating in the northern hemisphere.
Animation credit: Yohai Kaspi
Reference: Kaspi, Y., and T. Schneider, 2011: Winter cold of eastern continental boundaries induced by warm ocean waters. Nature, in press. doi:10.1038/nature09924
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