Theor. Comp. Fluid Dyn., 20,443-467.

Asymptotic Solutions to the Moist Axisymmetric Hadley Circulation

Samuel P. Burns
Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, New York, NY.

Adam H. Sobel and Lorenzo M. Polvani
Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY.


A simplified model of the moist axisymmetric Hadley circulation is examined in the asymptotic limit in which surface friction is strong and the meridional wind is weak compared to the zonal wind. Our model consists of the Quasi-Equilibrium Tropical Circulation Model (QTCM) equations on an axisymmetric aquaplanet equatorial beta-plane. This model includes two vertical momentum modes, one baroclinic and one barotropic. Prior studies use either continuous stratification, or a shallow water system best viewed as representing the upper troposphere. The analysis here focuses on the interaction of the baroclinic and barotropic modes, and the way in which this interaction allows the constraints on the circulation known from the fully stratified case to be satisfied in an approximate way.

The dry equations, with temperature forced by Newtonian relaxation towards a prescribed radiative equilibrium, are solved first. At leading order, the resulting circulation has a zonal wind profile corresponding to uniform angular momentum at a level near the tropopause, and zero zonal surface wind, owing to the cancellation of the barotropic and baroclinic modes there. The weak surface winds are calculated from the first order corrections. The broad features of these solutions are similar to those obtained in previous studies of the dry Hadley circulation. The moist equations are solved next, with a fixed sea surface temperature at the lower boundary and simple parameterizations of surface fluxes, deep convection, and radiative transfer. The solutions yield the structure of the barotropic and baroclinic winds, as well as the temperature and moisture fields. In addition, we derive expressions for the width and strength of the equatorial precipitating region (ITCZ) and the width of the entire Hadley circulation. The ITCZ width is on the order of a few degrees in the absence of any horizontal diffusion and is relatively insensitive to parameter variations.