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Title: Asymptotic limit analysis for numerical models of atmospheric frontogenesis
Author: Visram, Abeed
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 9534
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2014
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Accurate prediction of the future state of the atmosphere is important throughout society, ranging from the weather forecast in a few days time to modelling the effects of a changing climate over decades and generations. The equations which govern how the atmosphere evolves have long been known; these are the Navier-Stokes equations, the laws of thermodynamics and the equation of state. Unfortunately the nonlinearity of the equations prohibits analytic solutions, so simplified models of particular flow phenomena have historically been, and continue to be, used alongside numerical models of the full equations. In this thesis, the two-dimensional Eady model of shear-driven frontogenesis (the creation of atmospheric fronts) was used to investigate how errors made in a localised region can affect the global solution. Atmospheric fronts are the boundary of two different air masses, typically characterised by a sharp change in air temperature and wind direction. This occurs across a small length of O(10 km), whereas the extent of the front itself can be O(1000 km). Fronts are a prominent feature of mid-latitude weather systems and, despite their narrow width, are part of the large-scale, global solution. Any errors made locally in the treatment of fronts will therefore affect the global solution. This thesis uses the convergence of the Euler equations to the semigeostrophic equations, a simplified model which is representative of the large-scale flow, including fronts. The Euler equations were solved numerically using current operational techniques. It was shown that highly predictable solutions could be obtained, and the theoretical convergence rate maintained, even with the presence of near-discontinuous solutions given by intense fronts. Numerical solutions with successively increased resolution showed that the potential vorticity, which is a fundamental quantity in determining the large-scale, balanced flow, approached the semigeostrophic limit solution. Regions of negative potential vorticity, indicative of local areas of instability, were reduced at high resolution. In all cases, the width of the front reduced to the grid-scale. While qualitative features of the limit solution were reproduced, a stark contrast in amplitude was found. The results of this thesis were approximately half in amplitude of the limit solution. Some attempts were made at increasing the intensity of the front through spatial- and temporal-averaging. A scheme was proposed that conserves the potential vorticity within the Eady model.
Supervisor: Cotter, Colin Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council ; Met Office
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral