Inertia-gravity waves generated within a dipole vortex

Chris Snyder, David J. Muraki, Riwal Plougonven, Fuqing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Vortex dipoles provide a simple representation of localized atmospheric jets. Numerical simulations of a synoptic-scale dipole in surface potential temperature are considered in a rotating, stratified fluid with approximately uniform potential vorticity. Following an initial period of adjustment, the dipole propagates along a slightly curved trajectory at a nearly steady rate and with a nearly fixed structure for more than 50 days. Downstream from the jet maximum, the flow also contains smaller-scale, upward-propagating inertia-gravity waves that are embedded within and stationary relative to the dipole. The waves form elongated bows along the leading edge of the dipole. Consistent with propagation in horizontal deformation and vertical shear, the waves' horizontal scale shrinks and the vertical slope varies as they approach the leading stagnation point in the dipole's flow. Because the waves persist for tens of days despite explicit dissipation in the numerical model that would otherwise damp the waves on a time scale of a few hours, they must be inherent features of the dipole itself, rather than remnants of imbalances in the initial conditions. The wave amplitude varies with the strength of the dipole, with waves becoming obvious once the maximum vertical vorticity in the dipole is roughly half the Coriolis parameter. Possible mechanisms for the wave generation are spontaneous wave emission and the instability of the underlying balanced dipole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4417-4431
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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