Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary Conceptual models of blocking structures are constructed by reducing the two-dimensional atmospheric vorticity field to a few point vortices. The flow is assumed to be barotropic and divergence-free, and a blocking event is represented by a point vortex dipole. The focus is here on the motion of the blocking dipole under the influence of the zonal mean flow. This is modelled in three different ways: A dipole embedded in a latitude-dependent zonal mean flow exhibits neutrally stable oscillations; their period is estimated analytically. A cyclonic point vortex approaching from upstream can either pass the dipole or break it up, so that an Ω-shaped pattern of three vortices emerges. The stationarity of a blocking between two troughs is modelled by four point vortices. These low-order point vortex models are compared with the dynamics of real blockings in case studies. Despite their high degree of simplification, those models reproduce the kinematics of blocking events properly. This results from the discretization of the flow to its actual physical states, the vortices, in contrast to the common, purely mathematical discretization to grid points. Thus, point vortex dynamics are proposed to be a powerful completion of continuous fluid dynamics in explaining blocking events.
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