The Generation Mechanism of Mixed Rossby-Gravity Waves in the Equatorial Troposphere

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  • 1 Climate Dynamics Laboratory, Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, California
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Abstract

Numerical experiments are performed to clarify the excitation mechanism of mixed Rossby-gravity waves (Yanai waves) in the tropical troposphere, as well as the selection of zonal wavenumbers 4–5 and of the five-day period. The model used is governed by the primitive equations on an equatorial β-plane. Moisture budgets are calculated explicitly.

A nonlinear wave-CISK mechanism produces Yanai waves with the same spectral peaks in wavenumber and frequency as observed. In the absence of antisymmetric lateral forcing, these peaks do not appear distinctly, because the symmetric equatorially trapped modes, i.e., Kelvin-like waves having different spectral peaks, are dominant. It is the lateral antisymmetric forcing which puts the peaks characterizing the antisymmetric Yanai waves in evidence.

It appears that Yanai waves of very small wavenumbers (1–3) cannot have large amplitudes because their frequencies are too large for moisture to be effectively supplied for the convection associated with these waves. Symmetric Kelvin modes are dominant in the absence of forcing asymmetries due at least in part to the difference in the nature of heating between symmetric and antisymmetric modes: precipitation, and hence heating, is not normally distributed. Given a strongly skewed distribution of heating, it can be shown that symmetric modes are excited more effectively. Finally, our results indicate that the vertical wavenumber, and hence the period of Yanai waves are selected by the height of cumulus convection, while the lateral forcing selects the horizontal wavenumber within a certain band provided by the nonlinear wave-CISK mechanism.

Abstract

Numerical experiments are performed to clarify the excitation mechanism of mixed Rossby-gravity waves (Yanai waves) in the tropical troposphere, as well as the selection of zonal wavenumbers 4–5 and of the five-day period. The model used is governed by the primitive equations on an equatorial β-plane. Moisture budgets are calculated explicitly.

A nonlinear wave-CISK mechanism produces Yanai waves with the same spectral peaks in wavenumber and frequency as observed. In the absence of antisymmetric lateral forcing, these peaks do not appear distinctly, because the symmetric equatorially trapped modes, i.e., Kelvin-like waves having different spectral peaks, are dominant. It is the lateral antisymmetric forcing which puts the peaks characterizing the antisymmetric Yanai waves in evidence.

It appears that Yanai waves of very small wavenumbers (1–3) cannot have large amplitudes because their frequencies are too large for moisture to be effectively supplied for the convection associated with these waves. Symmetric Kelvin modes are dominant in the absence of forcing asymmetries due at least in part to the difference in the nature of heating between symmetric and antisymmetric modes: precipitation, and hence heating, is not normally distributed. Given a strongly skewed distribution of heating, it can be shown that symmetric modes are excited more effectively. Finally, our results indicate that the vertical wavenumber, and hence the period of Yanai waves are selected by the height of cumulus convection, while the lateral forcing selects the horizontal wavenumber within a certain band provided by the nonlinear wave-CISK mechanism.

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