A Climatological Analysis of Upper-Tropospheric Velocity Potential Fields using Global Weather Reanalysis, 1958-2020

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Virginia Tech


Upper-tropospheric (200 hPa) velocity potential is useful in identifying areas of rising or sinking atmospheric motions on varying temporal scales (e.g., weekly, seasonal, interannual) especially in the global tropics. These areas are associated with enhancement (rising motion) or suppression (sinking motion) of tropical convection and subsequent weather phenomena dependent on these processes (e.g., tropical cyclones). This study employed three commonly used global weather reanalysis datasets (NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis 1, JMA JRA-55, ECMWF ERA5) to calculate and compare upper-tropospheric velocity potential fields on varying temporal scales and quantify any differences that existed between them from 1958 to 2020 over four key regions of variability (Equatorial Africa, Amazon Basin, Equatorial Central Pacific, and Equatorial Indonesia). To supplement this analysis, the highly correlated variables to velocity potential of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) and daily precipitation rate were used and directly compared with independent OLR and precipitation datasets to determine the reanalysis' level of agreement with the independent data. The ECMWF ERA5 held the highest agreement to these data over all regions examined and was reasoned to have the highest confidence in capturing the variability of upper-tropospheric velocity potential fields for the study period. Confidence was decreased in the usefulness of the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis 1 as it consistently performed poorly over much of the study domain. The results of this study also emphasized the usefulness in ensemble-based approaches to assessing climate variability and understanding potential biases and uncertainties that are inherent in the data sources.



Climate Variability, Climate Teleconnections, Tropical Meteorology, Velocity Potential, Meteorology, Climate