Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

A mechanism for the latitudinal dependence of peak-spectrum sea surface height variability


  • This article was corrected on 28 AUG 2014. See the end of the full text for details.


Previous studies have shown that the power spectrum of satellite-observed sea surface height (SSH) variability peaks at a certain frequency (or a wave number) band at a given latitude. Lin et al. (2008) attributed this latitudinal dependence to the critical frequency of the first baroclinic mode Rossby waves in the tropical and subtropical oceans. Their study was based on the linear Rossby wave theory and focused on SSH variability in the tropical and subtropical oceans since the altimetry data do not adequately resolve lengths of baroclinic Rossby waves at and near the critical frequency in high latitudes. In this study, we expand their analysis to high-latitude oceanic basins and to include nonlinear eddy effects, by using a linear wave model and a high-resolution model output from the OGCM for the Earth Simulator (OFES). It is found that the linear wave mechanism by and large remains valid in the tropical and subtropical oceans. In higher latitudes as well as in some regions in the western tropical and subtropical oceans, other mechanisms, like nonlinear eddy, play more important role in determining the SSH variability.