Balance model for equatorial long waves
Chan, I. H. and Shepherd, T. G. (2013) Balance model for equatorial long waves. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 725. pp. 55-90. ISSN 0022-1120
To link to this article DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2013.146
Geophysical fluid models often support both fast and slow motions. As the dynamics are often dominated by the slow motions, it is desirable to filter out the fast motions by constructing balance models. An example is the quasi geostrophic (QG) model, which is used widely in meteorology and oceanography for theoretical studies, in addition to practical applications such as model initialization and data assimilation. Although the QG model works quite well in the mid-latitudes, its usefulness diminishes as one approaches the equator. Thus far, attempts to derive similar balance models for the tropics have not been entirely successful as the models generally filter out Kelvin waves, which contribute significantly to tropical low-frequency variability. There is much theoretical interest in the dynamics of planetary-scale Kelvin waves, especially for atmospheric and oceanic data assimilation where observations are generally only of the mass field and thus do not constrain the wind field without some kind of diagnostic balance relation. As a result, estimates of Kelvin wave amplitudes can be poor. Our goal is to find a balance model that includes Kelvin waves for planetary-scale motions. Using asymptotic methods, we derive a balance model for the weakly nonlinear equatorial shallow-water equations. Specifically we adopt the ‘slaving’ method proposed by Warn et al. (Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc., vol. 121, 1995, pp. 723–739), which avoids secular terms in the expansion and thus can in principle be carried out to any order. Different from previous approaches, our expansion is based on a long-wave scaling and the slow dynamics is described using the height field instead of potential vorticity. The leading-order model is equivalent to the truncated long-wave model considered previously (e.g. Heckley & Gill, Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc., vol. 110, 1984, pp. 203–217), which retains Kelvin waves in addition to equatorial Rossby waves. Our method allows for the derivation of higher-order models which significantly improve the representation of Rossby waves in the isotropic limit. In addition, the ‘slaving’ method is applicable even when the weakly nonlinear assumption is relaxed, and the resulting nonlinear model encompasses the weakly nonlinear model. We also demonstrate that the method can be applied to more realistic stratified models, such as the Boussinesq model.