Wave response during hydrostatic and geostrophic adjustment. Part I: Transient dynamics

Jeffrey M. Chagnon, Peter R. Bannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The adjustment of a compressible, stably stratified atmosphere to sources of hydrostatic and geostrophic imbalance is investigated using a linear model. Imbalance is produced by prescribed, time-dependent injections of mass, heat, or momentum that model those processes considered "external" to the scales of motion on which the linearization and other model assumptions are justifiable. Solutions are demonstrated in response to a localized warming characteristic of small isolated clouds, larger thunderstorms, and convective systems. For a se mi-infinite atmosphere, solutions consist of a set of vertical modes of continuously varying wavenumber, each of which contains time dependencies classified as steady, acoustic wave, and buoyancy wave contributions. Additionally, a rigid lower-boundary condition implies the existence of a discrete mode - the Lamb mode - containing only a steady and acoustic wave contribution. The forced solutions are generalized in terms of a temporal Green's function, which represents the response to an instantaneous injection. The response to an instanta neous warming with geometry representative of a small, isolated cloud takes place in two stages. Within the first few minutes, acoustic and Lamb waves accomplish an expansion of the heated region. Within the first quarter-hour, nonhydrostatic buoyancy waves accomplish an upward displacement inside of the heated region with inflow below, outflow above, and weak subsidence on the periphery - all mainly accomplished by the lowest vertical wavenumber modes, which have the largest horizontal group speed. More complicated transient patterns of inflow aloft and outflow along the lower boundary are accomplished by higher vertical wavenumber modes. Among these is an outwardly propagating rotor along the lower boundary that effectively displaces the low-level inflow upward and outward. A warming of 20 min duration w ith geometry representative of a large thunderstorm generates only a weak acoustic response in the horizontal by the Lamb waves. The amplitude of this signal increases during the onset of the heating and decreases as the heating is turned off. The lowest vertical wavenumber buoyancy waves still dominate the horizontal adjustment, and the horizontal scale of displacements is increased by an order of magnitude. Within a few hours the transient motions remove the perturbations and an approximately trivial balanced state is established. A warming of 2 h duration with geometry representative of a large convective system generates a weak but discernible Lamb wave signal. The response to the conglomerate system is mainly hydrostatic. After several hours, the only signal in the vicinity of the heated region is that of inertia-gravity waves oscillating about a nontrivial hydrostatic and geostrophic state. This paper is the first of two parts treating the tr ansient dynamics of hydrostatic and geostrophic adjustment. Part II examines the potential vorticity conservation and the partitioning of total energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1311-1329
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Wave response during hydrostatic and geostrophic adjustment. Part I: Transient dynamics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this