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

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Zurita Gotor, Pablo and Held, Isaac M. (2018) The Finite-amplitude evolution of mixed Kelvin-Rossby wave instability and equatorial superrotation in a shallow-water model and an idealized GCM. Journal of the atmospheric sciences, 75 (7). pp. 2299-2316. ISSN 0022-4928

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JAS-D-17-0386.1


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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.


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© 2018 American Meteorological Society.
We are grateful to Adam Showman for clarifying to us the acceleration mechanism in his forced simulations, as well as for several insightful comments. P. Z.-G. acknowledges financial support by Grant CGL2015-72259-EXP by the Ministry of Economy and Competitivity of Spain. This work has been partly done during P. Z.-G.'s visit to Princeton, funded by NSF Grant AGS-1733818.

Uncontrolled Keywords:General-circulation; Upper troposphere; Barotropic instability; Rotating fluid; Zonal winds; Shear flows; Layer; Instability; Kelvin waves; Planetary atmospheres; Shallow-water equations; Wave breaking; Waves; Atmospheric
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Geophysics
Sciences > Physics > Meteorology
ID Code:49025
Deposited On:07 Sep 2018 15:26
Last Modified:01 Jan 2019 00:01

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