Unlike the storms swirling around the gas giant of Jupiter, Earth’s storms are affected by the oceans and mountains.
[social_buttons]Science will often, in an effort to simplify and provide a reference point, compare findings here on Earth with disparate examples elsewhere, either on the planet or off. A group of scientists looking to understand how storm tracks work here on Earth looked to the smooth surface of Jupiter to form a base of comparison.
Computer simulations that depicted Earth in several formations led scientists to find that there is a comparable effect on the storm tracks made by ocean dynamics and mountains.
“We used an intermediate-complexity coupled ocean-atmosphere climate model to perform a set of highly idealised experiments,” said Dr Chris Wilson of the National Oceanography Centre.
“First, we made an Earth with a static ocean, which stored and released heat but didn’t transport it, and with flat continents without mountains. Then we introduced ocean dynamics and orography in stages, until we got a realistic Earth. This set of four experiments allowed us to study the individual effect of ocean dynamics and orography on the storm track pattern, as well as the effect from their interaction.”
Storm tracks, those regions which are home to swirling eddies which are the cause for many of the extratropical cyclones, react different on Earth than they do on Jupiter. On the largest planet in our solar system, the storm tracks circle the planet symmetrically at particular latitudes. However on Earth, things are different, where though they broadly occupy the mid-latitudes, they contain variabilities Jupiter’s storms do not.
“The main candidates for causing asymmetric storm tracks on Earth are ocean dynamics and mountain orography — the shape of mountain ranges. Our study, published in the Journal of Climate, examines their relative roles using a special type of computer model, and answers a long-standing debate on the subject,” explains Wilson.
Studies have shown varying degrees of proof for ocean dynamics affecting the weather and mountains affecting the weather. Only now are we seeing that it is a combination of both that affects how our weather works.
“Our study shows that ocean dynamics do influence atmospheric storm tracks and therefore European weather and climate. We do not yet know how sensitive forecasts of European weather and climate will be to the detailed representation of ocean dynamics. However, we have shown that both oceans and mountains influence storm tracks to a similar degree but with different effects,” says Wilson.