The propagation mechanism of a vortex on the β plane
Van Leeuwen, P. J. (2007) The propagation mechanism of a vortex on the β plane. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 37 (9). pp. 2316-2330. ISSN 0022-3670
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/JPO3107.1
The propagation velocity and propagation mechanism for vortices on a β plane are determined for a reduced-gravity model by integrating the momentum equations over the β plane. Isolated vortices, vortices in a background current, and initial vortex propagation from rest are studied. The propagation mechanism for isolated anticyclones as well as cyclones, which has been lacking up to now, is presented. It is shown that, to first order, the vortex moves to generate a Coriolis force on the mass anomaly of the vortex to compensate for the force on the vortex due to the variation of the Coriolis parameter. Only the mass anomaly of the vortex is of importance, because the Coriolis force due to the motion of the bulk of the layer moving with the vortex is almost fully compensated by the Coriolis force on the motion of the exterior flow. Because the mass anomaly of a cyclone is negative the force and acceleration have opposite sign. The role of dipolar structures in steadily moving vortices is discussed, and it is shown that their overall structure is fixed by the steady westward motion of the mass anomaly. Furthermore, it is shown that reduced-gravity vortices are not advected with a background flow. The reason for this behavior is that the background flow changes the ambient vorticity gradient such that the vortex obtains an extra self-propagation term that exactly cancels the advection by the background flow. Last, it is shown that a vortex initially at rest will accelerate equatorward first, after which a westward motion is generated. This result is independent of the sign of the vortex.