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Long Rossby Wave Basin-Crossing Time and the Resonance of Low-Frequency Basin Modes

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Abstract

The ability of long-wave low-frequency basin modes to be resonantly excited depends on the efficiency with which energy fluxed onto the western boundary can be transmitted back to the eastern boundary. This efficiency is greatly reduced for basins in which the long Rossby wave basin-crossing time is latitude dependent.

In the singular case where the basin-crossing time is independent of latitude, the amplitude of resonantly excited long-wave basin modes grows without bound except for the effects of friction. The speed of long Rossby waves is independent of latitude for quasigeostrophic dynamics, and the rectangular basin geometry often used for theoretical studies of the wind-driven ocean circulation is such a singular case for quasigeostrophic dynamics.

For more realistic basin geometries, where only a fraction of the energy incident on the western boundary can be transmitted back to the eastern boundary, the modes have a finite decay rate that in the limit of weak friction is independent of the choice of frictional parameters. Explicit eigenmode computations for a basin geometry similar to the North Pacific but closed along the equator yield basin modes sufficiently weakly damped that they could be resonantly excited.

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