Another Note on Rossby Wave Energy Flux uri icon


  • AbstractLonguet-Higgins in 1964 first pointed out that the Rossby wave energy flux as defined by the pressure work is not the same as that defined by the group velocity. The two definitions provide answers that differ by a nondivergent vector. Longuet-Higgins suggested that the problem arose from ambiguity in the definition of energy flux, which only impacts the energy equation through its divergence. Numerous authors have addressed this issue from various perspectives, and we offer one more approach that we feel is more succinct than previous ones, both mathematically and conceptually. We follow the work described by Cai and Huang in 2013 in concluding that there is no need to invoke the ambiguity offered by Longuet-Higgins. By working directly from the shallow-water equations (as opposed to the more involved quasigeostrophic treatment of Cai and Huang), we provide a concise derivation of the nondivergent pressure work and demonstrate that the two energy flux definitions are equivalent when only the divergent part of the pressure work is considered. The difference vector comes from the nondivergent part of the geostrophic pressure work, and the familiar westward component of the Rossby wave group velocity comes from the divergent part of the geostrophic pressure work. In a broadband wave field, the expression for energy flux in terms of a single group velocity is no longer meaningful, but the expression for energy flux in terms of the divergent pressure work is still valid.

publication date

  • February 2020