Effects of topography on baroclinic instability

Changheng Chen, Igor Kamenkovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The importance of bottom topography in the linear baroclinic instability of zonal flows on the β plane is examined by using analytical calculations and a quasigeostrophic eddy-resolving numerical model. The particular focus is on the effects of a zonal topographic slope, comparedwith the effects of ameridional slope.A zonal slope always destabilizes background zonal flows that are otherwise stable in the absence of topography regardless of the slope magnitude, whereas the meridional slopes stabilize/destabilize zonal flows only through changing the lower-level background potential vorticity gradient beyond a known critical value. Growth rates, phase speeds, and vertical structure of the growing solutions strongly depend on the slope magnitude. In the numerical simulations configured with an isolatedmeridional ridge, unstablemodes develop on both sides of the ridge and propagate eastward of the ridge, in agreement with analytical results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-804
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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