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The Mean Zonal Flow Response to Rossby Wave and Gravity Wave Forcing in the Equatorial Lower Stratosphere: Relationship to the QBO

Masaaki TakahashiDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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James R. HoltonDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

Observations show that the westerly acceleration of the equatorial quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) can be accounted for by Kelvin waves, but that there is a deficiency in the easterly acceleration due to Rossby–gravity waves. Rossby waves and westward propagating gravity waves have been suggested as alternative source for the easterly acceleration.

We have tested the possible role of these two wave modes in a two-dimensional model of the QBO. When the easterly acceleration is due to Rossby waves, the zonal-mean response is steady; when it is due to gravity waves, an oscillation with some features similar to the QBO occurs, but it is of short period and weak amplitude. A similar result occurs when a standing-wave forcing pattern is imposed.

These results suggest that Rossby waves play only a minor role in the QBO, and that while the Rossby–gravity mode is essential, other gravity modes may also be important for the easterly phase.

Abstract

Observations show that the westerly acceleration of the equatorial quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) can be accounted for by Kelvin waves, but that there is a deficiency in the easterly acceleration due to Rossby–gravity waves. Rossby waves and westward propagating gravity waves have been suggested as alternative source for the easterly acceleration.

We have tested the possible role of these two wave modes in a two-dimensional model of the QBO. When the easterly acceleration is due to Rossby waves, the zonal-mean response is steady; when it is due to gravity waves, an oscillation with some features similar to the QBO occurs, but it is of short period and weak amplitude. A similar result occurs when a standing-wave forcing pattern is imposed.

These results suggest that Rossby waves play only a minor role in the QBO, and that while the Rossby–gravity mode is essential, other gravity modes may also be important for the easterly phase.

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