Spontaneous gravity wave radiation from an unsteady rotational flow is investigated numerically in an f-plane shallow water system. Unlike the classical Rossby adjustment problem, where free development of an initially unbalanced state is investigated, we consider development of a barotropically unstable zonal flow which is initially balanced but maintained by zonal mean forcing. Gravity waves are continuously radiated from a nearly balanced rotational flow region even when the Froude number is so small that balance dynamics is thought to be a good approximation for the full system. The source of gravity waves is discussed by analogy with the theory of aero-acoustic sound wave radiation (the Lighthill theory). It is shown that the source regions correspond to regions of strong rotational flow. The gradual change of rotational flow causes gravity wave radiation. We propose an approximation for these strong sources on the assumption that the dominant flow in the jet region is non-divergent rotational flow. In addition, we calculate the zonally symmetric component of gravity waves far from the source regions, solving the Lighthill equation. Using scaling analyses for perturbations, these gravity waves can be calculated with only one approximated source term that is related to the latitudinal gradient of the fluid depth and the latitudinal mass flux. In spite of its simplicity, this approximation not only explains the physical cause of gravity wave radiation, but gives an amount of source close to that obtained by classical approximation derived from vortical motion.
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