Baroclinic Instability in Vertically Discrete Systems

Akio Arakawa Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California

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Shrinivas Moorthi Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California

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Abstract

Two vertically discrete systems, one based on the “Charney-Phillips grid” and the other on the “Lorenz grid,” are compared in view of the quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity equation and baroclinic instability.

It is shown that with the Charney-Phillips grid, the standard grid for the quasi-geostrophic system of equations, one can easily maintain important dynamical constraints on quasi-geostrophic flow, such as the conservation of quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity through horizontal advection and resulting integral constraints. With the Lorenz grid, however, in which horizontal velocity and (potential) temperature are carried at same levels, it is not straightforward even to define quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity. Moreover, due to an extra degree of freedom in potential temperature, the Lorenz grid can falsely satisfy the necessary condition for baroclinic instability near the lower and upper boundaries. In fact, eigenvalue solutions of the linear quasi-geostrophic equations show the existence of spuriously amplifying modes with short wavelengths, one trapped near the lower boundary and the other near the upper boundary. The former grows more rapidly then the latter when static stability increases with height. In a model discretized both in vertical and horizontal, the spurious amplification appears with high horizontal resolution unless vertical resolution is very high.

The existence of the spurious amplification of short waves in a nonlinear primitive equation model is also confirmed. Here the amplification also influences longer waves though nonlinearity and upper level presumably through vertical propagation of gravity waves.

It is shown that the spurious amplification can be removed at its origin by introducing additional terms in the thermodynamic equations for the bottom and top layers, which effectively eliminate the possibility of falsely satisfying the necessary condition for baroclinic instability.

Abstract

Two vertically discrete systems, one based on the “Charney-Phillips grid” and the other on the “Lorenz grid,” are compared in view of the quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity equation and baroclinic instability.

It is shown that with the Charney-Phillips grid, the standard grid for the quasi-geostrophic system of equations, one can easily maintain important dynamical constraints on quasi-geostrophic flow, such as the conservation of quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity through horizontal advection and resulting integral constraints. With the Lorenz grid, however, in which horizontal velocity and (potential) temperature are carried at same levels, it is not straightforward even to define quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity. Moreover, due to an extra degree of freedom in potential temperature, the Lorenz grid can falsely satisfy the necessary condition for baroclinic instability near the lower and upper boundaries. In fact, eigenvalue solutions of the linear quasi-geostrophic equations show the existence of spuriously amplifying modes with short wavelengths, one trapped near the lower boundary and the other near the upper boundary. The former grows more rapidly then the latter when static stability increases with height. In a model discretized both in vertical and horizontal, the spurious amplification appears with high horizontal resolution unless vertical resolution is very high.

The existence of the spurious amplification of short waves in a nonlinear primitive equation model is also confirmed. Here the amplification also influences longer waves though nonlinearity and upper level presumably through vertical propagation of gravity waves.

It is shown that the spurious amplification can be removed at its origin by introducing additional terms in the thermodynamic equations for the bottom and top layers, which effectively eliminate the possibility of falsely satisfying the necessary condition for baroclinic instability.

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