A Theory for the Statistical Equilibrium Energy Spectrum and Heat Flux Produced by Transient Baroclinic Waves

Brian F. Farrell Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Search for other papers by Brian F. Farrell in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
and
Petros J. Ioannou Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Search for other papers by Petros J. Ioannou in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

Abstract

Obtaining a physically based understanding of the variations with spatial scale of the amplitude and dispersive properties of midlatitude transient baroclinic waves and the heat flux associated with these waves is a central goal of dynamic meteorology and climate studies. Recently, stochastic forcing of highly nonnormal dynamical systems, such as arise from analysis of the equations governing perturbations to the midlatitude westerly jet, has been shown to induce large transfers of energy from the mean to the perturbation scale. In the case of a baroclinic atmospheric jet, this energy transfer to the synoptic scale produces dispersive properties, distributions of wave energy with wavenumber, and heat fluxes that are intrinsically associated with the nonnormal dynamics underlying baroclinic wave development.

In this work a method for calculating the spectrum and heat flux arising from stochastic forcing is described and predictions of this theory for a model atmosphere are compared with observations. The calculated energy spectrum is found to be in remarkable agreement with observations, in contrast with the predictions of modal instability theory. The calculated heat flux exhibits a realistic distribution with height and its associated energetic cycle agrees with observed seasonal mean energetics.

Abstract

Obtaining a physically based understanding of the variations with spatial scale of the amplitude and dispersive properties of midlatitude transient baroclinic waves and the heat flux associated with these waves is a central goal of dynamic meteorology and climate studies. Recently, stochastic forcing of highly nonnormal dynamical systems, such as arise from analysis of the equations governing perturbations to the midlatitude westerly jet, has been shown to induce large transfers of energy from the mean to the perturbation scale. In the case of a baroclinic atmospheric jet, this energy transfer to the synoptic scale produces dispersive properties, distributions of wave energy with wavenumber, and heat fluxes that are intrinsically associated with the nonnormal dynamics underlying baroclinic wave development.

In this work a method for calculating the spectrum and heat flux arising from stochastic forcing is described and predictions of this theory for a model atmosphere are compared with observations. The calculated energy spectrum is found to be in remarkable agreement with observations, in contrast with the predictions of modal instability theory. The calculated heat flux exhibits a realistic distribution with height and its associated energetic cycle agrees with observed seasonal mean energetics.

Save