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Counterpropagating Rossby waves and barotropic instability

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A novel attempt is made to quantify the qualitative interpretation of barotropic instability in terms of counterpropagating Rosssby waves (CRW) as proposed by Hoskins et al. (1985). Although many investigations have been devoted to this quantification in the past, a minimum resolution grid point model is chosen here as a tool where complete insight can be achieved with little effort. Barotropic instability is discussed in terms of standard gridpoint modes and also of vorticity modes which are the analogue of the CRWs. The intercomparison of both approaches leads to a fresh look at the mechanism of barotropic instability. It is pointed out that CRWs cannot be defined in a corresponding low-order spectral model although this model is quite successful in capturing the main features of barotropic instability. It is concluded that CRWs are mathematical structures which are helpful but not essential for an understanding of barotropic instability.

Es wird versucht die Interpretation von barotroper Instabilität als Wechselbeziehung von gegenläufigen Rossbywellen (CRW) zu quantifizieren, wie sie von Hoskins et al. (1985) vorgeschlagen wurde. Dieser Versuch ist insofern neuartig als ein lineares barotropes Modell minimaler Auflösung herangezogen wird. Die barotrope Instabilität wird einmal im Rahmen der üblichen Gitterpunktstrukturen diskutiert und einmal anhand von Vorticitymoden, die den CRWs entsprechen. Der Vergleich beider Verfahren läßt barotrope Instabilität in neuem Licht erscheinen. Es wird betont, dass CRWs in einem entsprechenden Spektralmodell niedriger Auflösung nicht auftreten können, wiewohl dieses Modell erfolgreich Grundzüge der barotropen Instabilität erfasst. Es folgt, dass CRWs mathematische Konstrukte sind, die für ein Verständnis der barotropen Instabilität hilfreich, aber nicht nötig sind.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-10-01

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  • Meteorologische Zeitschrift (originally founded in 1866) is the joint periodical of the meteorological societies of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. It accepts high-quality peer-reviewed manuscripts on all aspects of observational, theoretical and computational research out of the entire field of meteorology, including climatology. Meteorologische Zeitschrift represents a natural forum for the meteorological community of Central Europe and worldwide.
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