In a series of papers, Killworth and Blundell have proposed to study the effects of a background mean flow and topography on Rossby wave propagation by means of a generalized eigenvalue problem formulated in terms of the vertical velocity, obtained from a linearization of the primitive equations of motion. However, it has been known for a number of years that this eigenvalue problem contains an error, which Killworth was prevented from correcting himself by his unfortunate passing and whose correction is therefore taken up in this note. Here, the author shows in the context of quasigeostrophic (QG) theory that the error can ultimately be traced to the fact that the eigenvalue problem for the vertical velocity is fundamentally a nonlinear one (the eigenvalue appears both in the numerator and denominator), unlike that for the pressure. The reason that this nonlinear term is lacking in the Killworth and Blundell theory comes from neglecting the depth dependence of a depth-dependent term. This nonlinear term is shown on idealized examples to alter significantly the Rossby wave dispersion relation in the high-wavenumber regime but is otherwise irrelevant in the long-wave limit, in which case the eigenvalue problems for the vertical velocity and pressure are both linear. In the general dispersive case, however, one should first solve the generalized eigenvalue problem for the pressure vertical structure and, if needed, diagnose the vertical velocity vertical structure from the latter.
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