Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2004

Abstract

This study uses satellite observations of sea surface height (SSH) to detect westward-propagating anomalies, presumably baroclinic Rossby waves, in the North Atlantic and to estimate their period, wavelength, amplitude, and phase speed. Detection involved a nonlinear fit of the theoretical dispersion relation for Rossby waves to the time–longitude spectrum at a given latitude. Estimates of period, wavelength, and phase speed resulted directly from the detection process. Based on these, a filter was designed and applied to extract the Rossby wave signal from the data. This allowed a mapping of the spatial variability of the Rossby wave amplitude for the North Atlantic. Results showed the familiar larger speed of observed Rossby waves relative to that expected from theory, with the largest differences occurring at shorter periods. The data also show that the dominant Rossby waves, those with periods that are less than annual, propagated with almost uniform speed in the western part of the North Atlantic between 30° and 40°N. In agreement with previous studies, the amplitude of the Rossby wave field was higher in the western part of the North Atlantic than in the eastern part. This is often attributed to the influence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. By contrast, this study, through an analysis of the wave spatial structure, suggests that the source of the baroclinic Rossby waves at midlatitudes in the western North Atlantic is located southeast of the Grand Banks where the Gulf Stream and the deep western boundary current interact with the Newfoundland Ridge. The spatial structure of the waves in the eastern North Atlantic is consistent with the formation of these waves along the basin's eastern boundary.

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