Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 173–187 | Cite as

An evaluation of the classical and extended Rossby wave theories in explaining spectral estimates of the first few baroclinic modes in the South Pacific Ocean

  • Angela M. MaharajEmail author
  • Paolo Cipollini
  • Neil J. Holbrook
  • Peter D. Killworth
  • Jeffrey R. Blundell
Original paper


Previous literature has suggested that multiple peaks in sea level anomalies (SLA) detected by two-dimensional Fourier Transform (2D-FT) analysis are spectral components of multiple propagating signals, which may correspond to different baroclinic Rossby wave modes. We test this hypothesis in the South Pacific Ocean by applying a 2D-FT analysis to the long Rossby wave signal determined from filtered TOPEX/Poseidon and European Remote Sensing-1/2 satellite altimeter derived SLA. The first four baroclinic mode dispersion curves for the classical linear wave theory and the Killworth and Blundell extended theory are used to determine the spectral signature and energy contributions of each mode. South of 17°S, the first two extended theory modes explain up to 60% more of the variance in the observed power spectral energy than their classical linear theory counterparts. We find that Rossby wave modes 2–3 contribute to the total Rossby wave energy in the SLA data. The second mode contributes significantly over most of the basin. The third mode is also evident in some localized regions of the South Pacific but may be ignored at the large scale. Examination of a selection of case study sites suggests that bathymetric effects may dominate at longer wavelengths or permit higher order mode solutions, but mean flow tends to be the more influential factor in the extended theory. We discuss the regional variations in frequency and wave number characteristics of the extended theory modes across the South Pacific basin.


Extended theory Classical linear theory South Pacific Ocean Rossby waves Baroclinic modes Fourier transform 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela M. Maharaj
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paolo Cipollini
    • 2
  • Neil J. Holbrook
    • 1
  • Peter D. Killworth
    • 2
  • Jeffrey R. Blundell
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physical GeographyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.National Oceanography Centre, SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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