Energy-conserving Galerkin approximations for quasigeostrophic dynamics

Matthew Watwood, Ian Grooms, Keith A. Julien, K. Shafer Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A method is presented for constructing energy-conserving Galerkin approximations in the vertical coordinate of the full quasigeostrophic model with active surface buoyancy. The derivation generalizes the approach of Rocha et al. (2016) [1] to allow for general bases. Details are then presented for a specific set of bases: Legendre polynomials for potential vorticity and a recombined Legendre basis from Shen (1994) [2] for the streamfunction. The method is tested in the context of linear baroclinic instability calculations, where it is compared to the standard second-order finite-difference method and to a Chebyshev collocation method. The Galerkin scheme is quite accurate even for a small number of degrees of freedom N, and growth rates converge much more quickly with increasing N for the Galerkin scheme than for the finite-difference scheme. The Galerkin scheme is at least as accurate as finite differences and can in some cases achieve the same accuracy as the finite difference scheme with ten times fewer degrees of freedom. The energy-conserving Galerkin scheme is of comparable accuracy to the Chebyshev collocation scheme in most linear stability calculations, but not in the Eady problem where the Chebyshev scheme is significantly more accurate. Finally the three methods are compared in the context of a simplified version of the nonlinear equations: the two-surface model with zero potential vorticity. The Chebyshev scheme is the most accurate, followed by the Galerkin scheme and then the finite difference scheme. All three methods conserve energy with similar accuracy, despite not having any a priori guarantee of energy conservation for the Chebyshev scheme. Further nonlinear tests with non-zero potential vorticity to assess the merits of the methods will be performed in a future work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-40
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Galerkin
  • Legendre
  • Quasigeostrophic
  • Spectral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Numerical Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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