The study investigates and compares various methods that aim to diagnose Rossby wave trains with the help of Hovmöller diagrams. Three groups of methods are distinguished: The first group contains trough-and-ridge Hovmöller diagrams of the meridional wind; they provide full phase information, but differ in the method for latitudinal averaging or weighting. The second group aims to identify Rossby wave trains as a whole, discounting individual troughs and ridges. The third group contains diagnostics which focus on physical mechanisms during the different phases of a Rossby wave train life cycle; they include the analysis of eddy kinetic energy and methods for quantifying Rossby wave breaking.
The different methods are analysed and systematically compared with each other in the framework of a two-month period in fall 2008. Each method more or less serves its designed purpose, but they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Notable differences between the individual methods render an objective identification of a Rossby wave train somewhat elusive. Nevertheless, the combination of several techniques provides a rather comprehensive picture of the Rossby wave train life cycle, being broadly consistent with the expected behaviour from previous theoretical analysis.