The Observed Life Cycle of a Baroclinic Instability

William J. Randel Physics Department, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50010

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John L. Stanford Physics Department, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50010

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Abstract

Medium-scale waves (zonal wavenumbers 4–7) frequently dominate Southern Hemisphere summer circulation patterns. Randel and Stanford have studied the dynamics of these features, demonstrating that the medium-scale waves result from baroclinic excitation and exhibit well-defined life cycles. This study details the evolution of the medium-scale waves during a particular life cycle. The specific case chosen exhibits a high degree of zonal symmetry, prompting study based upon zonally averaged diagnostics. An analysis of the medium-scale wave energetics reveals a well-defined life cycle of baroclinic growth, maturity, and barotropic decay. Eliassen-Palm flux diagrams detail the daily wave structure and its interaction with the zonally-averged flow.

Abstract

Medium-scale waves (zonal wavenumbers 4–7) frequently dominate Southern Hemisphere summer circulation patterns. Randel and Stanford have studied the dynamics of these features, demonstrating that the medium-scale waves result from baroclinic excitation and exhibit well-defined life cycles. This study details the evolution of the medium-scale waves during a particular life cycle. The specific case chosen exhibits a high degree of zonal symmetry, prompting study based upon zonally averaged diagnostics. An analysis of the medium-scale wave energetics reveals a well-defined life cycle of baroclinic growth, maturity, and barotropic decay. Eliassen-Palm flux diagrams detail the daily wave structure and its interaction with the zonally-averged flow.

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