Large-scale drivers of the mistral wind: link to Rossby wave life cycles and seasonal variability

Givon, Yonatan; Keller Jr., Douglas; Silverman, Vered; Pennel, Romain; Drobinski, Philippe; Raveh-Rubin, Shira

The mistral is a northerly low-level jet blowing through the Rhône valley in southern France and down to the Gulf of Lion. It is co-located with the cold sector of a low-level lee cyclone in the Gulf of Genoa, behind an upper-level trough north of the Alps. The mistral wind has long been associated with extreme weather events in the Mediterranean, and while extensive research focused on the lower-tropospheric mistral and lee cyclogenesis, the different upper-tropospheric large- and synoptic-scale settings involved in producing the mistral wind are not generally known. Here, the isentropic potential vorticity (PV) structures governing the occurrence of the mistral wind are classified using a self-organizing map (SOM) clustering algorithm. Based upon a 36-year (1981–2016) mistral database and daily ERA-Interim isentropic PV data, 16 distinct mistral-associated PV structures emerge. Each classified flow pattern corresponds to a different type or stage of the Rossby wave life cycle, from broad troughs to thin PV streamers to distinguished cutoffs. Each of these PV patterns exhibits a distinct surface impact in terms of the surface cyclone, surface turbulent heat fluxes, wind, temperature and precipitation. A clear seasonal separation between the clusters is evident, and transitions between the clusters correspond to different Rossby-wave-breaking processes. This analysis provides a new perspective on the variability of the mistral and of the Genoa lee cyclogenesis in general, linking the upper-level PV structures to their surface impact over Europe, the Mediterranean and north Africa.

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Givon, Yonatan / Keller Jr., Douglas / Silverman, Vered / et al: Large-scale drivers of the mistral wind: link to Rossby wave life cycles and seasonal variability. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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