The finite-amplitude evolution of mixed Kelvin-Rossby wave instability and equatorial superrotation in a shallow-water model and an idealized GCM

Pablo Zurita-Gotor, Isaac M. Held

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

An instability involving the resonant interaction of a Rossby wave and a Kelvin wave has been proposed to drive equatorial superrotation in planetary atmospheres with a substantially smaller radius or a smaller rotation rate than Earth, that is, with a large thermal Rossby number. To pursue this idea, this paper investigates the equilibration mechanism of Kelvin-Rossby instability by simulating the unforced initial-value problem in a shallow-water model and in a multilevel primitive equation model. Although the instability produces equatorward momentum fluxes in both models, only the multilevel model is found to superrotate. It is argued that the shortcoming of the shallow-water model is due to its difficulty in representing Kelvin wave breaking and dissipation, which is crucial for accelerating the flow in the tropics. In the absence of dissipation, the zonal momentum fluxed into the tropics is contained in the eddy contribution to the mass-weighted zonal wind rather than the zonal-mean zonal flow itself. In the shallow-water model, the zonal-mean zonal flow is only changed by the eddy potential vorticity flux, which is very small in our flow in the tropics and can only decelerate the flow in the absence of external vorticity stirring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2299-2316
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Volume75
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

Keywords

  • Atmospheric
  • Instability
  • Kelvin waves
  • Planetary atmospheres
  • Shallow-water equations
  • Wave breaking
  • Waves

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