Nonlinear saturation of baroclinic instability: part II: continuously stratified fluid
Shepherd, T. G. (1989) Nonlinear saturation of baroclinic instability: part II: continuously stratified fluid. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 46 (7). pp. 888-907. ISSN 1520-0469
To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/1520-0469(1989)046<0888:NSOBIP>2.0.CO;2
Rigorous upper bounds are derived that limit the finite-amplitude growth of arbitrary nonzonal disturbances to an unstable baroclinic zonal flow in a continuously stratified, quasi-geostrophic, semi-infinite fluid. Bounds are obtained bath on the depth-integrated eddy potential enstrophy and on the eddy available potential energy (APE) at the ground. The method used to derive the bounds is essentially analogous to that used in Part I of this study for the two-layer model: it relies on the existence of a nonlinear Liapunov (normed) stability theorem, which is a finite-amplitude generalization of the Charney-Stern theorem. As in Part I, the bounds are valid both for conservative (unforced, inviscid) flow, as well as for forced-dissipative flow when the dissipation is proportional to the potential vorticity in the interior, and to the potential temperature at the ground. The character of the results depends on the dimensionless external parameter γ = f02ξ/β0N2H, where ξ is the maximum vertical shear of the zonal wind, H is the density scale height, and the other symbols have their usual meaning. When γ ≫ 1, corresponding to “deep” unstable modes (vertical scale ≈H), the bound on the eddy potential enstrophy is just the total potential enstrophy in the system; but when γ≪1, corresponding to ‘shallow’ unstable modes (vertical scale ≈γH), the eddy potential enstrophy can be bounded well below the total amount available in the system. In neither case can the bound on the eddy APE prevent a complete neutralization of the surface temperature gradient which is in accord with numerical experience. For the special case of the Charney model of baroclinic instability, and in the limit of infinitesimal initial eddy disturbance amplitude, the bound states that the dimensionless eddy potential enstrophy cannot exceed (γ + 1)2/24&gamma2h when γ ≥ 1, or 1/6;&gammah when γ ≤ 1; here h = HN/f0L is the dimensionless scale height and L is the width of the channel. These bounds are very similar to (though of course generally larger than) ad hoc estimates based on baroclinic-adjustment arguments. The possibility of using these kinds of bounds for eddy-amplitude closure in a transient-eddy parameterization scheme is also discussed.