Rossby Waves Tie Together Extreme Rainfall Events Around the World

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 30 January 2019


Vast Troves of Big Data, New Methods, and Supercomputers Find Deep Relationships

Extreme rainfall events are connected across the world,
Imperial College London, January 30, 2019.


Rossby waves have been connected to regular rainfall, but this study is the first to connect them to extreme rainfall event patterns.

Big Data
“...the team developed a new method rooted in complex system theory to study high-resolution satellite data of rainfall. The data comes from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and covers the region between 50 (degrees) North and South since 1998.”

Hidden Patterns
Better Future Models & Forecasts
“Uncovering this global pattern of connections in the data can improve weather and climate models. This is especially true for the emerging picture of couplings between the tropics and the European and North American regions and their consequences for extreme rainfall.”

“...revealed a possible mechanism for how the events were connected.”

“...very surprising relationships between extreme rainfall events in different regions around the world.”

Riding the Same Wave
“...extreme events in the South Asian Summer Monsoon are, on average, linked to events in the East Asian, African, European and North American regions. Although rains in Europe do not cause the rain in Pakistan and India, they belong to the same atmospheric wave pattern, with the European rains being triggered first.”



Bottom Line

Figuring out the mechanics of how Rossby Waves affect the distribution of heat and moisture will supercharge climate modeling and weather forecasting.


More about Rossby Waves

Rossby Waves

Rossby Waves

“Rossby waves, also known as planetary waves, are a natural phenomenon in the atmospheres and oceans of planets that largely owe their properties to rotation of the planet. Rossby waves are a subset of inertial waves.”

A Physical Force
Our Planet's, "...rotation causes fluids to turn to the right as they move in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. For example, a fluid that moves from the equator toward the north pole will deviate toward the east; a fluid moving toward the equator from the north will deviate toward the west. These deviations are caused by the Coriolis force and conservation of potential vorticity which leads to changes of relative vorticity. This is analogous to conservation of angular momentum in mechanics."

"...have a major influence on weather. These waves are associated with pressure systems and the jet stream."

Relevant Now
“Poleward-propagating Rossby waves explain many of the observed statistical connections between low- and high-latitude climates. One such phenomenon is sudden stratospheric warming. Poleward-propagating Rossby waves are an important and unambiguous part of the variability in the Northern Hemisphere, as expressed in the Pacific North America pattern.”

How Rossby Waves Contribute to Splitting Polar Vortex
Rossby Wave Meanders of the northern hemisphere's jet stream, Wiki, by Fred the Oyster.
Meanders of the northern hemisphere's jet stream developing (a, b) and finally detaching a "drop" of cold air (c). Orange: warmer masses of air; pink: jet stream; blue: colder masses of air. Wiki, by Fred the Oyster



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