Identifying Martian atmospheric instabilities and their physical origins using bred vectors

Steven J. Greybush, Eugenia Kalnay, Matthew J. Hoffman, R. John Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The bred vector (BV) technique applied to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Mars General Circulation Model (MGCM) identifies regions and seasons of instability of the Martian atmosphere, and a kinetic energy equation applied to the control and perturbed states elucidates their physical origins. Instabilities prominent in the late autumn to early spring seasons of each hemisphere along the polar temperature front result from baroclinic conversions from BV potential to BV kinetic energy near the surface, whereas both baroclinic and barotropic conversions play a role for the westerly jets aloft. The low-level tropics and the northern hemisphere summer are relatively stable, with negative bred vector growth rates. Bred vector growth precedes initiation of travelling wave activity in the midlatitudes during the transition seasons, and their structure relates to the eddy field. Topography plays a role in determining favoured locations for near-surface instabilities. Bred vectors are also linked to forecast ensemble spread in data assimilation and help explain the growth of forecast errors. We finally note that the ability to use breeding to identify instabilities as well as their physical origin depends on the fact that both the control and the perturbed solutions that give rise to bred vectors satisfy exactly the model's governing equations. As a result, this approach can be used with any dynamical system represented by a model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-653
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
Issue number672
StatePublished - Apr 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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