The horizontal spectra of atmospheric wind and temperature at the tropopause have a steep -3 slope at synoptic scales, but transition to -5/3 at wavelengths of the order of 500-1,000 km [Nastrom, G. D. & Gage, K. S. (1985) J. Atmos. Sci. 42, 950-960]. Here we demonstrate that a model that assumes zero potential vorticity and constant stratification N over a finite-depth H in the troposphere exhibits the same type of spectra. In this model, temperature perturbations generated at the planetary scale excite a direct cascade of energy with a slope of -3 at large scales, -5/3 at small scales, and a transition near horizontal wavenumber kt = f/NH, where f is the Coriolis parameter. Ballpark atmospheric estimates for N, f, and H give a transition wavenumber near that observed, and numerical simulations of the previously undescribed model verify the expected behavior. Despite its simplicity, the model is consistent with a number of perplexing features in the observations and demonstrates that a complete theory for mesoscale dynamics must take temperature advection at boundaries into account.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Oct 3 2006|
- Atmospheric dynamics
- Geophysical turbulence
ASJC Scopus subject areas