Sensitivity of mesoscale gravity waves to the baroclinicity of jet-front systems

Shuguang Wang, Fuqing Zhang

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44 Scopus citations


This study investigates the sensitivity of mesoscale gravity waves to the baroclinicity of the background jet-front systems by simulating different life cycles of baroclinic waves with a high-resolution mesoscale model. Four simulations are made starting from two-dimensional baroclinic jets having different static stability and wind shear in order to obtain baroclinic waves with significantly different growth rates. In all experiments, vertically propagating mesoscale gravity waves are simulated in the exit region of upper-tropospheric jet streaks. A two-dimensional spectral analysis demonstrates that these gravity waves have multiple components with different wave characteristics. The short-scale wave components that are preserved by a high-pass filter with a cutoff wavelength of 200 km have horizontal wavelengths of 85-161 km and intrinsic frequencies of 3-11 times the Coriolis parameter. The medium-scale waves that are preserved by a bandpass filter (with 200- and 600-km cutoff wavelengths) have horizontal wavelengths of 250-350 km and intrinsic frequencies less than 3 times the Coriolis parameter. The intrinsic frequencies of these gravity waves tend to increase with the growth rate of the baroclinic waves; gravity waves with similar frequency are found in the experiments with similar average baroclinic wave growth rate but with significantly different initial tropospheric static stability and tropopause geometry. The residuals of the nonlinear balance equation are used to assess the flow imbalance. In all experiments, the developing background baroclinic waves evolve from an initially balanced state to the strongly unbalanced state especially near the exit region of upper-level jet fronts before mature mesoscale gravity waves are generated. It is found that the growth rate of flow imbalance also correlates well to the growth rate of baroclinic waves and thus correlates to the frequency of gravity waves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-688
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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