Research Articles

Global Observations of Oceanic Rossby Waves

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Science  12 Apr 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5259, pp. 234-238
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5259.234


Rossby waves play a critical role in the transient adjustment of ocean circulation to changes in large-scale atmospheric forcing. The TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite altimeter has detected Rossby waves throughout much of the world ocean from sea level signals with ≲10-centimeter amplitude and ≳500-kilometer wavelength. Outside of the tropics, Rossby waves are abruptly amplified by major topographic features. Analysis of 3 years of data reveals discrepancies between observed and theoretical Rossby wave phase speeds that indicate that the standard theory for free, linear Rossby waves is an incomplete description of the observed waves.

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