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On the Propagation of Baroclinic Waves in the General Circulation

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  • 1 Department of Oceanography and Supercomputer Computations Research Institute, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
  • | 2 Centre for Atmospheric and Climatic Research, National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand
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Abstract

The propagation of long, first mode, baroclinic planetary waves in eddy-resolving quasigeostrophic general circulation models is studied. Recent TOPEX/Poseidon observations argue oceanic first-mode planetary waves move with speeds other than those predicted by simple theory. These data have prompted theoretical analyses of wave propagation in a mean flow, with the results suggesting mean shear can have a controlling effect on the planetary wave guide. Some of the predicted effects appear to be relevant to the observations, while others are less obvious. This, coupled with other explanations for the observations, motivates the calculations.

Based on these experiments, the authors suggest that the predicted effects of mean shear on wave propagation are consistent with those computed in a fully geostrophically turbulent ocean. These are that a two-layer model misses the dominant component of long-wave interaction with a mean flow, a three-layer model captures this interaction qualitatively, and the correction to wave propagation is in the direction opposite to the mean flow. Quantitative comparisons between the theory and the numerical experiments are good in the northern latitudes and questionable in the southern latitudes. Reasons for the southern discrepancy are offered.

Corresponding author address: Dr. William K. Dewar, Dept. of Oceanography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4320.

Email: dewar@ocean.fsu.edu

Abstract

The propagation of long, first mode, baroclinic planetary waves in eddy-resolving quasigeostrophic general circulation models is studied. Recent TOPEX/Poseidon observations argue oceanic first-mode planetary waves move with speeds other than those predicted by simple theory. These data have prompted theoretical analyses of wave propagation in a mean flow, with the results suggesting mean shear can have a controlling effect on the planetary wave guide. Some of the predicted effects appear to be relevant to the observations, while others are less obvious. This, coupled with other explanations for the observations, motivates the calculations.

Based on these experiments, the authors suggest that the predicted effects of mean shear on wave propagation are consistent with those computed in a fully geostrophically turbulent ocean. These are that a two-layer model misses the dominant component of long-wave interaction with a mean flow, a three-layer model captures this interaction qualitatively, and the correction to wave propagation is in the direction opposite to the mean flow. Quantitative comparisons between the theory and the numerical experiments are good in the northern latitudes and questionable in the southern latitudes. Reasons for the southern discrepancy are offered.

Corresponding author address: Dr. William K. Dewar, Dept. of Oceanography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4320.

Email: dewar@ocean.fsu.edu

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