Climate Dynamics

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 185-203

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Convectively coupled Kelvin and easterly waves in a regional climate simulation of the tropics

  • Stefan N. TulichAffiliated withCIRES, University of ColoradoNCARCIRES-NOAA/ESRL R/PSD1 Email author 
  • , George N. KiladisAffiliated withCIRES-NOAA/ESRL R/PSD1
  • , Asuka Suzuki-ParkerAffiliated withGeorgia Institute of Technology


This study evaluates the performance of a regional climate model in simulating two types of synoptic tropical weather disturbances: convectively-coupled Kelvin and easterly waves. Interest in these two wave modes stems from their potential predictability out to several weeks in advance, as well as a strong observed linkage between easterly waves and tropical cyclogenesis. The model is a recent version of the weather research and forecast (WRF) system with 36-km horizontal grid spacing and convection parameterized using a scheme that accounts for key convective triggering and inhibition processes. The domain spans the entire tropical belt between 45°S and 45°N with periodic boundary conditions in the east–west direction, and conditions at the meridional/lower boundaries specified based on observations. The simulation covers 6 years from 2000 to 2005, which is long enough to establish a statistical depiction of the waves through space-time spectral filtering of rainfall data, together with simple lagged-linear regression. Results show that both the horizontal phase speeds and three-dimensional structures of the waves are qualitatively well captured by the model in comparison to observations. However, significant biases in wave activity are seen, with generally overactive easterly waves and underactive Kelvin waves. Evidence is presented to suggest that these biases in wave activity (which are also correlated with biases in time–mean rainfall, as well as biases in the model’s tropical cyclone climatology) stem in part from convection in the model coupling too strongly to rotational circulation anomalies. Nevertheless, the model is seen to do a reasonable job at capturing the genesis of tropical cyclones from easterly waves, with evidence for both wave accumulation and critical layer processes being importantly involved.


Convectively coupled equatorial waves Easterly waves Kelvin waves Regional climate modeling Tropical climate Tropical cyclones Tropical cyclogenesis