Regime of validity of soundproof atmospheric flow models

Rupert Klein*, Ulrich Achatz, Didier Bresch, Omar M. Knio, Piotr K. Smolarkiewicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Ogura and Phillips derived the original anelastic model through systematic formal asymptotics using the flow Mach number as the expansion parameter. To arrive at a reduced model that would simultaneously represent internal gravity waves and the effects of advection on the same time scale, they had to adopt a distinguished limit requiring that the dimensionless stability of the background state be on the order of the Mach number squared. For typical flow Mach numbers of M 1/30, this amounts to total variations of potential temperature across the troposphere of less than one Kelvin (i.e., to unrealistically weak stratification). Various generalizations of the original anelastic model have been proposed to remedy this issue. Later, Durran proposed the pseudoincompressible model following the same goals, but via a somewhat different route of argumentation. The present paper provides a scale analysis showing that the regime of validity of two of these extended models covers stratification strengths on the order of (hscΘ)dΘ/dz, M2/3, which corresponds to realistic variations of potential temperature u across the pressure scale height hsc of h DujΘsc, <30 K. Specifically, it is shown that (i) for (hsc/Θ)dΘ/dz, <M with 0, < μ>, 2, the atmosphere features three asymptotically distinct time scales, namely, those of advection, internal gravity waves, and sound waves; (ii) within this range of stratifications, the structures and frequencies of the linearized internal wave modes of the compressible, anelastic, and pseudoincompressible models agree up to the order ofM; and (iii) if <μ 2/3, the accumulated phase differences of internal waves remain asymptotically small even over the long advective time scale. The argument is completed by observing that the three models agree with respect to the advective nonlinearities and that all other nonlinear terms are of higher order in M.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3226-3237
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Anelastic models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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