The building blocks of Northern Hemisphere wintertime stationary waves

Published in Journal of Climate, 2020

Garfinkel, C. I., I. White, E. P. Gerber, M. Jucker, and M. Erez, 2020: The building blocks of Northern Hemisphere wintertime stationary waves, J. Climate., in press.

Official version to appear

An intermediate complexity moist General Circulation Model is used to investigate the forcing of stationary waves in the Northern Hemisphere boreal winter by land-sea contrast, horizontal heat fluxes in the ocean, and topography. The additivity of the response to these building blocks is investigated. In the Pacific sector, the stationary wave pattern is not simply the linear additive sum of the response to each forcing. In fact, over the northeast Pacific and western North America, the sum of the responses to each forcing is actually opposite to that when all three are imposed simultaneously due to nonlinear interactions among the forcings. The source of the nonlinearity is diagnosed using the zonally anomalous steady-state thermodynamic balance, and it is shown that the background state temperature field set up by each forcing dictates the stationary wave response to the other forcings. As all three forcings considered here strongly impact the temperature field and its zonal gradients, the nonlinearity and nonadditivity in our experiments can be explained, but only in a diagnostic sense. This nonadditivity extends up to the stratosphere, and also to surface temperature, where the sum of the responses to each forcing differs from the response if all forcings are included simultaneously. Only over western Eurasia is additivity a reasonable (though not perfect) assumption; in this sector land-sea contrast is most important over Europe, while topography is most important over Western Asia. In other regions, where non-additivity is pronounced, the question of which forcing is most important is ill-posed.