Hydrostatic Adjustment: Lamb's Problem

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
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Abstract

The prototype problem of hydrostatic adjustment for large-scale atmospheric motions is Presented. When a horizontally infinite layer of compressible fluid, initially at rest, is instantaneously heated, the fluid is no longer in hydrostatic balance since its temperature and pressure in the layer have increased while its density remains unchanged. The subsequent adjustment of the fluid is described in detail for an isothermal base-state atmosphere.

The initial imbalance generates acoustic wave fronts with trailing wakes of dispersive acoustic gravity waves. There are two characteristic timescales of the adjustment. The first is the transit time it takes an acoustic front to travel from the source region to a particular location. The second timescale, the acoustic cutoff frequency, is associated with the trailing wake. The characteristic depth scale of the adjustment is the density scale height. If the depth of the heating is small compared with the scale height, the final pressure perturbation tends to zero and the pressure field adjusts to the initial density hold. For larger depths, there is a mutual adjustment of the pressure and density fields.

Use of the one-dimensional analogue of the conservation of Ertel's potential vorticity removes hydrostatic degeneracy and determines the final equilibrium state directly. As a result of the adjustment process, the heated layer has expanded vertically. Since the region below the layer is unaltered, the region aloft is displaced upward uniformly. As a consequence of the expansion, the pressure and temperature anomalies in the layer are reduced from their initial values immediately after the heating. Aloft both the pressure and density fields are increased but there is no change in temperature. Since the base-state atmosphere is isothermal, warm advection is absent; since the vertical displacements of air parcels is uniform aloft, compressional warming is also absent.

The energetics of the adjustment are documented. Initially all the perturbation energy resides in the heated layer with a fraction γ−1 = 71.4% stored as available potential energy, while the remainder is available elastic energy, A fraction κ = R/Cp = (γ − 1)/&gamma = 28.6% of the initial energy is lost to propagating acoustic modes. Here γ = Cp/Cv is the ratio of the specific heats and R is the ideal gas constant. The remainder of the energy is partitioned between the heated layer and the region aloft. The energy aloft appears mostly as elastic energy, and the energy in the layer appears mostly as available potential energy.

Abstract

The prototype problem of hydrostatic adjustment for large-scale atmospheric motions is Presented. When a horizontally infinite layer of compressible fluid, initially at rest, is instantaneously heated, the fluid is no longer in hydrostatic balance since its temperature and pressure in the layer have increased while its density remains unchanged. The subsequent adjustment of the fluid is described in detail for an isothermal base-state atmosphere.

The initial imbalance generates acoustic wave fronts with trailing wakes of dispersive acoustic gravity waves. There are two characteristic timescales of the adjustment. The first is the transit time it takes an acoustic front to travel from the source region to a particular location. The second timescale, the acoustic cutoff frequency, is associated with the trailing wake. The characteristic depth scale of the adjustment is the density scale height. If the depth of the heating is small compared with the scale height, the final pressure perturbation tends to zero and the pressure field adjusts to the initial density hold. For larger depths, there is a mutual adjustment of the pressure and density fields.

Use of the one-dimensional analogue of the conservation of Ertel's potential vorticity removes hydrostatic degeneracy and determines the final equilibrium state directly. As a result of the adjustment process, the heated layer has expanded vertically. Since the region below the layer is unaltered, the region aloft is displaced upward uniformly. As a consequence of the expansion, the pressure and temperature anomalies in the layer are reduced from their initial values immediately after the heating. Aloft both the pressure and density fields are increased but there is no change in temperature. Since the base-state atmosphere is isothermal, warm advection is absent; since the vertical displacements of air parcels is uniform aloft, compressional warming is also absent.

The energetics of the adjustment are documented. Initially all the perturbation energy resides in the heated layer with a fraction γ−1 = 71.4% stored as available potential energy, while the remainder is available elastic energy, A fraction κ = R/Cp = (γ − 1)/&gamma = 28.6% of the initial energy is lost to propagating acoustic modes. Here γ = Cp/Cv is the ratio of the specific heats and R is the ideal gas constant. The remainder of the energy is partitioned between the heated layer and the region aloft. The energy aloft appears mostly as elastic energy, and the energy in the layer appears mostly as available potential energy.

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