Some simple solutions for heat-induced tropical circulation



A simple analytic model is constructed to elucidate some basic features of the response of the tropical atmosphere to diabatic heating. In particular, there is considerable east-west asymmetry which can be illustrated by solutions for heating concentrated in an area of finite extent. This is of more than academic interest because heating in practice tends to be concentrated in specific areas. For instance, a model with heating symmetric about the equator at Indonesian longitudes produces low-level easterly flow over the Pacific through propagation of Kelvin waves into the region. It also produces low-level westerly inflow over the Indian Ocean (but in a smaller region) because planetary waves propagate there. In the heating region itself the low-level flow is away from the equator as required by the vorticity equation. The return flow toward the equator is farther west because of planetary wave propagation, and so cyclonic flow is obtained around lows which form on the western margins of the heating zone. Another model solution with the heating displaced north of the equator provides a flow similar to the monsoon circulation of July and a simple model solution can also be found for heating concentrated along an inter-tropical convergence line.