Trajectory Analysis of the Mechanism for Westward Propagation of Rossby Waves

Edwin K. Schneider George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Calverton, Maryland

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Abstract

An analysis of Rossby wave dynamics in two and three dimensions is carried from the point of view of a reference frame propagating with the zonal phase speed of the wave. Since trajectories and streamlines coincide in this reference frame, the mechanism for (westward) propagation of free waves has a different interpretation than in a reference frame fixed to the ground. In the wave reference frame, propagating free-wave solutions are possible only when parcels approach from the west. When parcels approach from the east, potential vorticity cannot be conserved along trajectories.

Corresponding author address: Edwin K. Schneider, Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax, VA 22030. E-mail: schneide@cola.iges.org

Abstract

An analysis of Rossby wave dynamics in two and three dimensions is carried from the point of view of a reference frame propagating with the zonal phase speed of the wave. Since trajectories and streamlines coincide in this reference frame, the mechanism for (westward) propagation of free waves has a different interpretation than in a reference frame fixed to the ground. In the wave reference frame, propagating free-wave solutions are possible only when parcels approach from the west. When parcels approach from the east, potential vorticity cannot be conserved along trajectories.

Corresponding author address: Edwin K. Schneider, Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax, VA 22030. E-mail: schneide@cola.iges.org
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