Instabilities of a Baroclinic Flow Related to Topographic Forcing

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  • 1 FISBAT—C.N.R., 40126 Bologna, Italy
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Abstract

The presence of bottom topography in a baroclinic flow modifies the properties of the propagating baroclinic unstable modes and allows for the appearance of new unstable modes which are nonpropagating, as first shown by Charney and Straus. Mountain form-drag, which provides a coupling mechanism between the zonal flow and the waves, is the essential ingredient for topographic instability. In this paper, the properties of instability for both zonally symmetric and asymmetric baroclinic basic states in the presence of topographic forcing are investigated. The results in a two-layer and a continuously stratified atmosphere are also compared and discussed. We find that two different types of topographic instability exist, one which is essentially baroclinic and is present in symmetric and asymmetric basic states, the other which is mixed barotropic-baroclinic and is present only in asymmetric basic states.

Abstract

The presence of bottom topography in a baroclinic flow modifies the properties of the propagating baroclinic unstable modes and allows for the appearance of new unstable modes which are nonpropagating, as first shown by Charney and Straus. Mountain form-drag, which provides a coupling mechanism between the zonal flow and the waves, is the essential ingredient for topographic instability. In this paper, the properties of instability for both zonally symmetric and asymmetric baroclinic basic states in the presence of topographic forcing are investigated. The results in a two-layer and a continuously stratified atmosphere are also compared and discussed. We find that two different types of topographic instability exist, one which is essentially baroclinic and is present in symmetric and asymmetric basic states, the other which is mixed barotropic-baroclinic and is present only in asymmetric basic states.

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