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Instability of Non-Zonal Baroclinic Flows: Multiple-Scale Analysis

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  • 1 Center for Earth and Planetary Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
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Abstract

The linear instability of a non-zonal flow can be reduced to an eigenvalue-eigenfunction problem, governed by a nonseparable partial differential equation (Niehaus, 1980). Approximate solutions, found by the method of multiple scales, are derived here and compared with earlier results found using a spectral method. The amplitude maxima are correctly located. The zonal variations of local wavenumber and of amplitude are qualitatively correct, but not sufficiently extreme. Because the method is oversensitive to local conditions, and less sensitive to global constraints, this comparison provides theoretical limits to the possibility of parametrizing transient eddies in terms of the local time mean state of the atmosphere.

The method can be extended easily to flows with more realistic vertical structure.

Abstract

The linear instability of a non-zonal flow can be reduced to an eigenvalue-eigenfunction problem, governed by a nonseparable partial differential equation (Niehaus, 1980). Approximate solutions, found by the method of multiple scales, are derived here and compared with earlier results found using a spectral method. The amplitude maxima are correctly located. The zonal variations of local wavenumber and of amplitude are qualitatively correct, but not sufficiently extreme. Because the method is oversensitive to local conditions, and less sensitive to global constraints, this comparison provides theoretical limits to the possibility of parametrizing transient eddies in terms of the local time mean state of the atmosphere.

The method can be extended easily to flows with more realistic vertical structure.

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