Decay of a cut-off low and contribution to stratosphere-troposphere exchange

H. Gouget, G. Vaughan, A. Marenco, H. G J Smit

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    We present a case study of the decay of a cut-off low over north-west Europe in June 1996, to establish how the stratospheric air initially contained within it was transferred to the troposphere. Two mechanisms for stratosphere-troposphere exchange are examined: direct convective erosion of the base of the low, and filamentation of the outer layers of the low along the flank of the polar jet stream. The approach taken relies on a combination of in-situ ozone and humidity measurements by MOZAIC (Measurement of Ozone and water vapour by Airbus In-service airCraft) aircraft and ozonesondes, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts analyses. MOZAIC ozone is used to choose two analyses eight days apart at the genesis (14 June 1996) and decay (22 June 1996) of the low which have a consistent ozone/potential-vorticity relationship. Trajectories (both isentropic and three dimensional (3D)) between these two analyses reveal a consistent pattern; at the base of the low (310 K, 450 mb) all the trajectories attain tropospheric PV values whereas, at 320 K, those trajectories that leave the low experience a decrease in PV and those that do not leave the low retain their initial PV. We propose that air parcels leaving the low were stretched into thin filaments along the flank of the jet stream, which made them vulnerable to 3D mixing. A MOZAIC flight on 21 June 1996 provides direct evidence for this process. Up to 22 June 1996 (by which time the low had lost its closed circulation) the satellite images showed very little convection beneath the corresponding PV anomaly. Mixing was only effective at the very base of the stratospheric air at 310 K. On 22 June the remaining remnant of high PV was advected into a region of deep convection over central and eastern Europe, mixing the remaining stratospheric air into the troposphere. Of the initial mass of 1015 kg of stratospheric air contained in the low, 6 x 1014 kg was stripped into filaments along the jet and 4 x 1014 kg remained to be mixed by convection during the period 22-23 June 1996.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1117-1141
    Number of pages24
    JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
    Issue number564
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000


    • Cut-off low
    • Ozone
    • Potential vorticity
    • Trajectories
    • Tropopause


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