Coupled Kelvin-wave and mirage-wave instabilities in semigeostrophic dynamics

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Kushner, Paul J. ; McIntyre, Michael E. ; Shepherd, Theodore G. (1998)

A weak instability mode, associated with phase-locked counterpropagating coastal Kelvin waves in horizontal anticyclonic shear, is found in the semigeostrophic (SG) equations for stratified flow in a channel. This SG instability mode approximates a similar mode found in the Euler equations in the limit in which particle-trajectory slopes are much smaller than f/N, where f is the Coriolis frequency and N > f the buoyancy frequency. Though weak under normal parameter conditions, this instability mode is of theoretical interest because its existence accounts for the failure of an Arnol’d-type stability theorem for the SG equations. In the opposite limit, in which the particle motion is purely vertical, the Euler equations allow only buoyancy oscillations with no horizontal coupling. The SG equations, on the other hand, allow a physically spurious coastal “mirage wave,” so called because its velocity field vanishes despite a nonvanishing disturbance pressure field. Counterpropagating pairs of these waves can phase-lock to form a spurious “mirage-wave instability.” Closer examination shows that the mirage wave arises from failure of the SG approximations to be self-consistent for trajectory slopes f/N.
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