Nonlinear Generation of Long Waves and the Reversal of Eddy Momentum Fluxes in a Two-Layer Quasigeostrophic Model

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Although classical theories of midlatitude momentum fluxes focus on the wave-mean flow interaction, wave-wave interactions may be important for generating long waves. It is shown in this study that this nonlinear generation has implications for eddy momentum fluxes in some regimes. Using a two-layer quasigeostrophic model of a baroclinic jet on a beta plane, statistically steady states are explored in which the vertically integrated eddy momentumflux is divergent at the center of the jet, rather than convergent as in Earthlike climates. One moves toward this less familiar climate from more Earthlike settings by reducing either b, frictional drag, or the width of the baroclinic zone, or by increasing the upper bound of resolvable wavelengths by lengthening the zonal channel. Even in Earthlike settings, long waves diverge momentumfrom the jet, but they are too weak to compete with short unstable waves that converge momentum. Weargue that long waves are generated by breaking of short unstable waves near their critical latitudes, where long waves converge momentum while diverging momentum at the center of the jet. Quasi-linear models with no wave-wave interaction can qualitatively capture the Earthlike regime but not the regime with momentum flux divergence at the center of the jet, because the nonlinear wave breaking and long-wave generation processes are missing. Therefore, a more comprehensive theory of atmospheric eddy momentum fluxes should take into account the nonlinear dynamics of long waves.
© 2021 American Meteorological Society. We thank Stephen Garner, Olivier Pauluis, and Nicholas Lutsko for feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. This report was prepared by TLH under Award NA14OAR4320106 from theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or the U.S. Department of Commerce. IMHand PZG are supported by the National Science Foundation Grant AGS-1733818. Data used in this research are archived on the Princeton University Research Computing Systems and are available upon request.
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