Evolution and stability of two-dimensional anelastic internal gravity wave packets

Alain D. Gervais, Gordon E. Swaters, Ton S. Van Den Bremer, Bruce R. Sutherland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The weakly nonlinear evolution, stability, and overturning of horizontally and vertically localized internal gravity wave packets is examined for a nonrotating, anelastic atmosphere that is stationary in the absence of waves. The weakly nonlinear evolution is examined through the derivation of their wave-induced mean flow, which is used to formulate a nonlinear Schrödinger equation. The induced flow is manifest as a long, hydrostatic, bow wake-like disturbance, whose flow direction transitions from positive on the leading flank of the wave packet to negative on the trailing flank of the wave packet. As such, two-dimensional wave packets are always modulationally unstable. This instability results in enhanced amplitude growth confined to either the leading or trailing flank. Hence, when combined with anelastic growth predicted by linear theory, we anticipate two-dimensional waves will overturn either somewhat below or just above the heights predicted by linear theory. Numerical solutions of the Schrödinger equation are compared with the results of fully nonlinear simulations to establish the validity of the weakly nonlinear theory. Actual wave overturning heights are determined quantitatively from a range of fully nonlinear simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3703-3724
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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