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Convectively coupled equatorial waves: A new methodology for identifying wave structures in observational data

Yang, G.Y. ORCID:, Hoskins, B.J. and Slingo, J.M. (2003) Convectively coupled equatorial waves: A new methodology for identifying wave structures in observational data. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 60 (14). 1637-1654.. ISSN 1520-0469

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/1520-0469(2003)060<1637:CCEWAN>2.0.CO;2


Convectively coupled equatorial waves are fundamental components of the interaction between the physics and dynamics of the tropical atmosphere. A new methodology, which isolates individual equatorial wave modes, has been developed and applied to observational data. The methodology assumes that the horizontal structures given by equatorial wave theory can be used to project upper- and lower-tropospheric data onto equatorial wave modes. The dynamical fields are first separated into eastward- and westward-moving components with a specified domain of frequency–zonal wavenumber. Each of the components for each field is then projected onto the different equatorial modes using the y structures of these modes given by the theory. The latitudinal scale yo of the modes is predetermined by data to fit the equatorial trapping in a suitable latitude belt y = ±Y. The extent to which the different dynamical fields are consistent with one another in their depiction of each equatorial wave structure determines the confidence in the reality of that structure. Comparison of the analyzed modes with the eastward- and westward-moving components in the convection field enables the identification of the dynamical structure and nature of convectively coupled equatorial waves. In a case study, the methodology is applied to two independent data sources, ECMWF Reanalysis and satellite-observed window brightness temperature (Tb) data for the summer of 1992. Various convectively coupled equatorial Kelvin, mixed Rossby–gravity, and Rossby waves have been detected. The results indicate a robust consistency between the two independent data sources. Different vertical structures for different wave modes and a significant Doppler shifting effect of the background zonal winds on wave structures are found and discussed. It is found that in addition to low-level convergence, anomalous fluxes induced by strong equatorial zonal winds associated with equatorial waves are important for inducing equatorial convection. There is evidence that equatorial convection associated with Rossby waves leads to a change in structure involving a horizontal structure similar to that of a Kelvin wave moving westward with it. The vertical structure may also be radically changed. The analysis method should make a very powerful diagnostic tool for investigating convectively coupled equatorial waves and the interaction of equatorial dynamics and physics in the real atmosphere. The results from application of the analysis method for a reanalysis dataset should provide a benchmark against which model studies can be compared.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:748
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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