Trapped planetary (Rossby) waves observed in the Indian Ocean by satellite borne altimeters

Yair De-Leon, Nathan Paldor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Using 20 years of accurately calibrated, high-resolution observations of sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs) by satellite borne altimeters, we show that in the Indian Ocean south of the Australian coast the low-frequency variations of SSHAs are dominated by westward propagating, trapped, i.e., non-harmonic, Rossby (Planetary) waves. Our results demonstrate that the meridional-dependent amplitudes of the SSHAs are large only within a few degrees of latitude next to the southern Australian coast while farther in the ocean they are uniformly small. This meridional variation of the SSHA signal is typical of the amplitude structure in the trapped wave theory. The westward propagation speed of the SSHA signal is analyzed by employing three different methods of estimation. Each one of these methods yields speed estimates that can vary widely between adjacent latitudes but the combination of at least two of the three methods yields much smoother variation. The estimates obtained in this manner show that the observed phase speeds at different latitudes exceed the phase speeds of harmonic Rossby (planetary) waves by 140 to 200ĝ€% (which was also reported in previous studies). In contrast, the theory of trapped Rossby (planetary) waves in a domain bounded by a wall on its equatorward side yields phase speeds that approximate more closely the observed phase speeds in the study area.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)483-494
Number of pages12
JournalOcean Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 22 Jun 2017

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Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) 2017.


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