Spectral analysis of tropical atmospheric dynamical variables using a linear shallow-water modal decomposition

Maria Gehne, Richard Kleeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Space-time spectral analysis has been used frequently in studying observational evidence of convectively coupled equatorial waves. Here 23 yr of brightness temperature T b data and dynamical reanalysis data are analyzed by an appropriate projection onto the meridional basis functions of the β-plane linear shallow-water equations. Evidence of peaks in power along linear equatorial mode dispersion curves in T b, zonal and meridional wind, divergence, and geopotential spectra are presented. Another feature of all space-time spectra considered is the redness in frequency, zonal wavenumber, and meridional mode number. It is found that spectral peaks in the dynamical variable spectra are largely consistent with linear shallow-water waves, but peaks related to barotropic waves and extratropical storm track activity are also apparent. The convectively coupled wave signals are seen to be confined to the first few meridional basis functions, suggesting a filtering method to reduce noise for these signals. This result also has implications for future modeling and theoretical work. A comparison of the results herein for two different reanalysis products shows only minor differences, adding confidence in the robustness of the results presented. This work implies that any comprehensive theory of tropical convection should explain the ubiquity of moist linear waves as well as the spectral redness with respect to all temporal and horizontal scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2300-2316
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Intraseasonal variability
  • Shallow-water equations
  • Spectral analysis/models/distribution
  • Tropical variabilty
  • Tropics
  • Waves-Atmospheric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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