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The Influence of Gravity Waves on the Slope of the Kinetic Energy Spectrum in Simulations of Idealized Midlatitude Cyclones

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

The influence of gravity waves generated by surface stress and by topography on the atmospheric kinetic energy (KE) spectrum is examined using idealized simulations of a cyclone growing in baroclinically unstable shear flow. Even in the absence of topography, surface stress greatly enhances the generation of gravity waves in the vicinity of the cold front, and vertical energy fluxes associated with these waves produce a pronounced shallowing of the KE spectrum at mesoscale wavelengths relative to the corresponding free-slip case. The impact of a single isolated ridge is, however, much more pronounced than that of surface stress. When the mountain waves are well developed, they produce a wavenumber to the −5/3 spectrum in the lower stratosphere over a broad range of mesoscale wavelengths. In the midtroposphere, a smaller range of wavelengths also exhibits a −5/3 spectrum. When the mountain is 500 m high, the waves do not break, and their KE is entirely associated with the divergent component of the velocity field, which is almost constant with height. When the mountain is 2 km high, wave breaking creates potential vorticity, and the rotational component of the KE spectrum is also strongly energized by the waves. Analysis of the spectral KE budgets shows that the actual spectrum is the result of continually shifting balances of direct forcing from vertical energy flux divergence, conservative advective transport, and buoyancy flux. Nevertheless, there is one interesting example where the −5/3-sloped lower-stratospheric energy spectrum appears to be associated with a gravity-wave-induced upscale inertial cascade.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dale R. Durran, drdee@uw.edu

Abstract

The influence of gravity waves generated by surface stress and by topography on the atmospheric kinetic energy (KE) spectrum is examined using idealized simulations of a cyclone growing in baroclinically unstable shear flow. Even in the absence of topography, surface stress greatly enhances the generation of gravity waves in the vicinity of the cold front, and vertical energy fluxes associated with these waves produce a pronounced shallowing of the KE spectrum at mesoscale wavelengths relative to the corresponding free-slip case. The impact of a single isolated ridge is, however, much more pronounced than that of surface stress. When the mountain waves are well developed, they produce a wavenumber to the −5/3 spectrum in the lower stratosphere over a broad range of mesoscale wavelengths. In the midtroposphere, a smaller range of wavelengths also exhibits a −5/3 spectrum. When the mountain is 500 m high, the waves do not break, and their KE is entirely associated with the divergent component of the velocity field, which is almost constant with height. When the mountain is 2 km high, wave breaking creates potential vorticity, and the rotational component of the KE spectrum is also strongly energized by the waves. Analysis of the spectral KE budgets shows that the actual spectrum is the result of continually shifting balances of direct forcing from vertical energy flux divergence, conservative advective transport, and buoyancy flux. Nevertheless, there is one interesting example where the −5/3-sloped lower-stratospheric energy spectrum appears to be associated with a gravity-wave-induced upscale inertial cascade.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dale R. Durran, drdee@uw.edu
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