Long-distance radiation of Rossby waves from the equatorial current system

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  • 1 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts USA
  • | 2 College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon USA
  • | 3 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts USA
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Abstract

Measurements from satellite altimetry are used to show that sea-surface height (SSH) variability throughout much of the North Pacific is coherent with the SSH signal of the tropical instability waves (TIWs) that result from instabilities of the equatorial currents. This variability has regular phase patterns consistent with freely propagating barotropic Rossby waves radiating energy away from the unstable equatorial currents, and the waves clearly propagate from the equatorial region to at least 30°N. The pattern of SSH variance at TIW frequencies exhibits remarkable patchiness on scales of hundreds of kilometers, which we interpret as being due to the combined effects of wave reflection, refraction, and interference. North of 40°N, more than 6000 km from the unstable equatorial currents, the SSH field remains coherent with the near-equatorial SSH variability, but it is not as clear whether the variability at the higher latitudes is a simple result of barotropic wave radiation from the tropical instability waves. Even more distant regions, as far north as the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska and the Kamchatka Peninsula of eastern Russia, have SSH variability that is significantly coherent with the near-equatorial instabilities. The variability is not well represented in the widely used gridded SSH data product commonly referred to as the AVISO or DUACS product, and this appears to be a result of spatial variations in the filtering properties of the objective mapping scheme.

Denotes content that is immediately available upon publication as open access.

Corresponding author address: Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mail Stop 29, Woods Hole, Massachusetts USA. E-mail: jfarrar@whoi.edu

Abstract

Measurements from satellite altimetry are used to show that sea-surface height (SSH) variability throughout much of the North Pacific is coherent with the SSH signal of the tropical instability waves (TIWs) that result from instabilities of the equatorial currents. This variability has regular phase patterns consistent with freely propagating barotropic Rossby waves radiating energy away from the unstable equatorial currents, and the waves clearly propagate from the equatorial region to at least 30°N. The pattern of SSH variance at TIW frequencies exhibits remarkable patchiness on scales of hundreds of kilometers, which we interpret as being due to the combined effects of wave reflection, refraction, and interference. North of 40°N, more than 6000 km from the unstable equatorial currents, the SSH field remains coherent with the near-equatorial SSH variability, but it is not as clear whether the variability at the higher latitudes is a simple result of barotropic wave radiation from the tropical instability waves. Even more distant regions, as far north as the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska and the Kamchatka Peninsula of eastern Russia, have SSH variability that is significantly coherent with the near-equatorial instabilities. The variability is not well represented in the widely used gridded SSH data product commonly referred to as the AVISO or DUACS product, and this appears to be a result of spatial variations in the filtering properties of the objective mapping scheme.

Denotes content that is immediately available upon publication as open access.

Corresponding author address: Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mail Stop 29, Woods Hole, Massachusetts USA. E-mail: jfarrar@whoi.edu
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