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Rossby wave propagation on potential vorticity fronts with finite width

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Harvey, B. J., Methven, J. and Ambaum, M. H. P. (2016) Rossby wave propagation on potential vorticity fronts with finite width. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 794. pp. 775-797. ISSN 0022-1120

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2016.180

Abstract/Summary

The horizontal gradient of potential vorticity (PV) across the tropopause typically declines with lead time in global numerical weather forecasts and tends towards a steady value dependent on model resolution. This paper examines how spreading the tropopause PV contrast over a broader frontal zone affects the propagation of Rossby waves. The approach taken is to analyse Rossby waves on a PV front of finite width in a simple single-layer model. The dispersion relation for linear Rossby waves on a PV front of infinitesimal width is well known; here an approximate correction is derived for the case of a finite width front, valid in the limit that the front is narrow compared to the zonal wavelength. Broadening the front causes a decrease in both the jet speed and the ability of waves to propagate upstream. The contribution of these changes to Rossby wave phase speeds cancel at leading order. At second order the decrease in jet speed dominates, meaning phase speeds are slower on broader PV fronts. This asymptotic phase speed result is shown to hold for a wide class of single-layer dynamics with a varying range of PV inversion operators. The phase speed dependence on frontal width is verified by numerical simulations and also shown to be robust at finite wave amplitude, and estimates are made for the error in Rossby wave propagation speeds due to the PV gradient error present in numerical weather forecast models.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:57775
Publisher:Cambridge University Press

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