The Stability of Time-Dependent Flows: An Application to Fronts in Developing Baroclinic Waves

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  • 1 Centre de Recherche en Météorologie Dynamique, Paris
  • | 2 Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, England
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Abstract

A methodology suitable for assessing the stability of any time-dependent basic state is presented. The equivalent of the normal modes for steady basic states are the eigenvectors of the resolvent matrix; this matrix incorporates the evolution of the large-scale flow, and growth rates are replaced by amplification rates. This method is applied to the three-dimensional stability of two-dimensional fronts undergoing frontogenesis in the presence of latent heat release in a semigeostrophic model. Disturbances developing in this flow are therefore geostrophically balanced. The concepts are first illustrated in a dry time-dependent uniform shear and potential vorticity flow. At any time during the evolution of the basic flow the stability can be compared to that obtained by assuming that the frontogenesis has, at that instant, ceased. Although differences between the results from the two methods exist, general conclusions as to the scales and structure of the modes are not altered; only large-scale waves are unstable. The situation in moist baroclinic waves is dramatically different. Growth rates are enhanced compared to the steady state analysis, but the possibility for frontal waves on the 1000-km scale to amplify most rapidly depends on the rate of development of the parent wave. Such waves dominate the spectrum only when that rate is slow and then only when the frontal ascent takes on a small cross-frontal width and the vorticity maximum penetrates over a deep layer. The short-wave growth is mostly due to latent heat release in the wave. This heating is shown, in a simplified case, to modify the necessary conditions for instability. It is concluded that shearing deformation does not intrinsically inhibit frontal instability, but paradoxically it greatly favors two-dimensional growth in the early stages due to the more rapid frontogenesis in the presence of latent heating. The role of stretching deformation may be substantially different but is not considered here.

Abstract

A methodology suitable for assessing the stability of any time-dependent basic state is presented. The equivalent of the normal modes for steady basic states are the eigenvectors of the resolvent matrix; this matrix incorporates the evolution of the large-scale flow, and growth rates are replaced by amplification rates. This method is applied to the three-dimensional stability of two-dimensional fronts undergoing frontogenesis in the presence of latent heat release in a semigeostrophic model. Disturbances developing in this flow are therefore geostrophically balanced. The concepts are first illustrated in a dry time-dependent uniform shear and potential vorticity flow. At any time during the evolution of the basic flow the stability can be compared to that obtained by assuming that the frontogenesis has, at that instant, ceased. Although differences between the results from the two methods exist, general conclusions as to the scales and structure of the modes are not altered; only large-scale waves are unstable. The situation in moist baroclinic waves is dramatically different. Growth rates are enhanced compared to the steady state analysis, but the possibility for frontal waves on the 1000-km scale to amplify most rapidly depends on the rate of development of the parent wave. Such waves dominate the spectrum only when that rate is slow and then only when the frontal ascent takes on a small cross-frontal width and the vorticity maximum penetrates over a deep layer. The short-wave growth is mostly due to latent heat release in the wave. This heating is shown, in a simplified case, to modify the necessary conditions for instability. It is concluded that shearing deformation does not intrinsically inhibit frontal instability, but paradoxically it greatly favors two-dimensional growth in the early stages due to the more rapid frontogenesis in the presence of latent heating. The role of stretching deformation may be substantially different but is not considered here.

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