Westward-propagating Rossby modes in idealized GCMs

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  • 1 Universidad Complutense and Instituto de Geociencia UCM-CSIC, Madrid, Spain
  • 2 Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
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Abstract

This work investigates the characteristics of westward-propagating Rossby modes in idealized global general circulation models. Using a nonlinear smoothing algorithm to estimate the background spectrum and an objective method to extract the spectral peaks, the 4 leading meridional modes can be identified for each of the first 3 zonal wavenumbers, with frequencies close to the predictions from the Hough modes obtained by linearizing about a state of rest. Variations in peak amplitude for different modes, both within a simulation and across simulations, may be understood under the assumption that the forcing of the modes scales with the background spectrum. Surface friction affects the amplitude and width of the peaks but both remain finite as friction goes to zero, which implies that some other mechanism, arguably nonlinear, must also contribute to the damping of the modes. Although spectral peaks are also observed for the precipitation field with idealized moist physics, there is no evidence of mode enhancement by the convective heating. Subject to the same friction, the amplitude of the peaks are very similar in the dry and moist models when both are normalized by the background spectra.

Corresponding author address: Pablo Zurita-Gotor, Departamento de Física de la Tierra y Astrofísica, Universidad Complutense, Facultad de Ciencias Físicas, Madrid 28040, Spain. E-mail: pzurita@alum.mit.edu

Abstract

This work investigates the characteristics of westward-propagating Rossby modes in idealized global general circulation models. Using a nonlinear smoothing algorithm to estimate the background spectrum and an objective method to extract the spectral peaks, the 4 leading meridional modes can be identified for each of the first 3 zonal wavenumbers, with frequencies close to the predictions from the Hough modes obtained by linearizing about a state of rest. Variations in peak amplitude for different modes, both within a simulation and across simulations, may be understood under the assumption that the forcing of the modes scales with the background spectrum. Surface friction affects the amplitude and width of the peaks but both remain finite as friction goes to zero, which implies that some other mechanism, arguably nonlinear, must also contribute to the damping of the modes. Although spectral peaks are also observed for the precipitation field with idealized moist physics, there is no evidence of mode enhancement by the convective heating. Subject to the same friction, the amplitude of the peaks are very similar in the dry and moist models when both are normalized by the background spectra.

Corresponding author address: Pablo Zurita-Gotor, Departamento de Física de la Tierra y Astrofísica, Universidad Complutense, Facultad de Ciencias Físicas, Madrid 28040, Spain. E-mail: pzurita@alum.mit.edu
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