Rossby Waves

Distinct from the familiar ocean waves which are driven by the wind, there is another class of waves which are described as having their origin in the spherical geometry of the Earth. Called Rossby waves after the person who described them in the 1930's, they are considered to be major contributers to the large scale circulation of the oceans and atmosphere. Having amplitudes of about 10 centimeters or less and wavelengths of about 500 kilometers or longer, they propagate around the Earth's oceans at wavespeeds of the order of 10 cm/s or slower. Rossby waves also occur in the atmosphere and have been more easily observed there in effects like the meandering of the mid-latitude jet stream. Rossby waves on the ocean have been directly observed only recently with the use of the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite altimeters.

Rossby, C. G., et al., J. Mar. Res. 2, 38 (1939) and C. G. Rossby, Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 66, 66 (1940).

Ocean wave velocity

Chelton & Schlax
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