Hadley cell dynamics in a virtually dry snowball Earth atmosphere

Aiko Voigt, Isaac M. Held, Jochem Marotzke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Hadley cell of a virtually dry snowball Earth atmosphere under equinox insolation is studied in a comprehensive atmospheric general circulation model. In contrast to the Hadley cell of modern Earth, momentum transport by dry convection, which is modeled as vertical diffusion of momentum, is important in the upper branch of the snowball Earth Hadley cell. In the zonal momentum balance, mean meridional advection of mean absolute vorticity is not only balanced by eddies but also by vertical diffusion of zonal momentum. Vertical diffusion also contributes to the meridional momentum balance by decelerating the Hadley cell through downgradient mixing of meridional momentum between its upper and lower branches. When vertical diffusion of momentum is suppressed in the upper branch, the Hadley cell strengthens by a factor of about 2. This is in line with the effect of vertical diffusion in the meridional momentum balance but in contrast with its effect in the zonal momentum balance. Neither axisymmetric Hadley cell theories based on angular momentum conservation nor eddy-permitting Hadley cell theories that neglect vertical diffusion of momentum are applicable to the snowball Earth Hadley cell. Because the snowball Earth Hadley cell is a particular realization of a dry Hadley cell, these results show that an appropriate description of dry Hadley cells should take into account vertical transport of momentum by dry convection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-128
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Diffusion
  • General circulation models
  • Hadley circulation
  • Momentum
  • Planetary atmospheres


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