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Comments on 'Balance and the slow quasimanifold: some explicit results'

Saujani, S. and Shepherd, T. G. (2002) Comments on 'Balance and the slow quasimanifold: some explicit results'. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 59 (19). pp. 2874-2877. ISSN 1520-0469

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/1520-0469(2002)059<2874:COBATS>2.0.CO;2


The concept of slow vortical dynamics and its role in theoretical understanding is central to geophysical fluid dynamics. It leads, for example, to “potential vorticity thinking” (Hoskins et al. 1985). Mathematically, one imagines an invariant manifold within the phase space of solutions, called the slow manifold (Leith 1980; Lorenz 1980), to which the dynamics are constrained. Whether this slow manifold truly exists has been a major subject of inquiry over the past 20 years. It has become clear that an exact slow manifold is an exceptional case, restricted to steady or perhaps temporally periodic flows (Warn 1997). Thus the concept of a “fuzzy slow manifold” (Warn and Ménard 1986) has been suggested. The idea is that nearly slow dynamics will occur in a stochastic layer about the putative slow manifold. The natural question then is, how thick is this layer? In a recent paper, Ford et al. (2000) argue that Lighthill emission—the spontaneous emission of freely propagating acoustic waves by unsteady vortical flows—is applicable to the problem of balance, with the Mach number Ma replaced by the Froude number F, and that it is a fundamental mechanism for this fuzziness. They consider the rotating shallow-water equations and find emission of inertia–gravity waves at O(F2). This is rather surprising at first sight, because several studies of balanced dynamics with the rotating shallow-water equations have gone beyond second order in F, and found only an exponentially small unbalanced component (Warn and Ménard 1986; Lorenz and Krishnamurthy 1987; Bokhove and Shepherd 1996; Wirosoetisno and Shepherd 2000). We have no technical objection to the analysis of Ford et al. (2000), but wish to point out that it depends crucially on R 1, where R is the Rossby number. This condition requires the ratio of the characteristic length scale of the flow L to the Rossby deformation radius LR to go to zero in the limit F → 0. This is the low Froude number scaling of Charney (1963), which, while originally designed for the Tropics, has been argued to be also relevant to mesoscale dynamics (Riley et al. 1981). If L/LR is fixed, however, then F → 0 implies R → 0, which is the standard quasigeostrophic scaling of Charney (1948; see, e.g., Pedlosky 1987). In this limit there is reason to expect the fuzziness of the slow manifold to be “exponentially thin,” and balance to be much more accurate than is consistent with (algebraic) Lighthill emission.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:33048
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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