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Three-Dimensional Structure and Dynamics of African Easterly Waves. Part II: Dynamical Modes

Nicholas M. J. HallLaboratoire d’étude des Transferts en Hydrologie et Environment, Grenoble, France

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George N. KiladisEarth System Research Laboratory, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado

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Chris D. ThorncroftDepartment of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Abstract

A primitive equation model is used to study the linear normal modes of the African easterly jet (AEJ). Reanalysis data from the summertime mean (June–September; JJAS) flow is used to provide zonally uniform and wavy basic states. The structure and growth rates of modes that grow over West Africa on these basic states are analyzed. For zonally uniform basic states, the modes resemble African easterly waves (AEWs) as in many previous studies, but they are quite baroclinic and surface intensified.

For wavy basic states the modes have a longitudinal structure determined by the AEJ. They have a surface-intensified baroclinic structure upstream and a deep barotropic structure downstream, as confirmed by energy conversion diagnostics. These modes look remarkably similar to the composite easterly wave structures found by the authors in a companion paper. The similarity extends to the phase relationship of vertical velocity with streamfunction, which resembles OLR composites, suggesting a dynamical influence on convection.

Without damping, the mode for the wavy basic state has a growth rate of 0.253 day−1. With a reasonable amount of low-level damping this mode is neutralized. It has a period of 5.5 days and a wavelength of about 3500 km. Further results with monthly mean basic states show slight variations, as the wave packet essentially follows displacements of the jet core. Experiments focused on specific active and passive years for easterly waves (1988 and 1990) do not yield significantly different results for the modes. These results, and in particular, the stability of the system, lead to the conclusion that barotropic–baroclinic instability alone cannot explain the initiation and intermittence of AEWs, and a finite-amplitude initial perturbation is required.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Nicholas M. J. Hall, LTHE, BP53, 38041 Grenoble CEDEX 9, France. Email: Nick.Hall@hmg.inpg.fr

Abstract

A primitive equation model is used to study the linear normal modes of the African easterly jet (AEJ). Reanalysis data from the summertime mean (June–September; JJAS) flow is used to provide zonally uniform and wavy basic states. The structure and growth rates of modes that grow over West Africa on these basic states are analyzed. For zonally uniform basic states, the modes resemble African easterly waves (AEWs) as in many previous studies, but they are quite baroclinic and surface intensified.

For wavy basic states the modes have a longitudinal structure determined by the AEJ. They have a surface-intensified baroclinic structure upstream and a deep barotropic structure downstream, as confirmed by energy conversion diagnostics. These modes look remarkably similar to the composite easterly wave structures found by the authors in a companion paper. The similarity extends to the phase relationship of vertical velocity with streamfunction, which resembles OLR composites, suggesting a dynamical influence on convection.

Without damping, the mode for the wavy basic state has a growth rate of 0.253 day−1. With a reasonable amount of low-level damping this mode is neutralized. It has a period of 5.5 days and a wavelength of about 3500 km. Further results with monthly mean basic states show slight variations, as the wave packet essentially follows displacements of the jet core. Experiments focused on specific active and passive years for easterly waves (1988 and 1990) do not yield significantly different results for the modes. These results, and in particular, the stability of the system, lead to the conclusion that barotropic–baroclinic instability alone cannot explain the initiation and intermittence of AEWs, and a finite-amplitude initial perturbation is required.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Nicholas M. J. Hall, LTHE, BP53, 38041 Grenoble CEDEX 9, France. Email: Nick.Hall@hmg.inpg.fr

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