Commentary on using equivalent latitude in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere

Pan, L. L.; Kunz, A.; Homeyer, C. R.; Munchak, L. A.; Kinnison, D. E.; Tilmes, S.

We discuss the use of potential vorticity (PV) based equivalent latitude (EqLat) and potential temperature ( θ) coordinates in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) for chemical transport studies. The main objective is to provide a cautionary note on using EqLat- θ coordinates for aggregating chemical tracers in the UTLS. Several examples are used to show 3-D distributions of EqLat together with chemical constituents for a range of θ. We show that the use of PV- θ coordinates may not be suitable for several reasons when tropospheric processes are an important part of a study. Due to the different static stability structures between the stratosphere and troposphere, the use of θ as a vertical coordinate does not provide equal representations of the UT and LS. Since the θ surfaces in the troposphere often intersect the surface of the Earth, the θ variable does not work well distinguishing the UT from the boundary layer when used globally as a vertical coordinate. We further discuss the duality of PV/EqLat as a tracer versus as a coordinate variable. Using an example, we show that while PV/EqLat serves well as a transport tracer in the UTLS region, it may conceal the chemical structure associated with wave breaking when used as a coordinate to average chemical tracers. Overall, when choosing these coordinates, considerations need to be made not only based on the time scale of PV being a conservative tracer, but also the specific research questions to be addressed.

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Pan, L. L. / Kunz, A. / Homeyer, C. R. / et al: Commentary on using equivalent latitude in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. 2012. Copernicus Publications.

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