A Laboratory Model of a Cooled Continental Shelf
WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION MA
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A laboratory model of wintertime cooling over a continental shelf has a water surface cooled by air in an annular rotating tank. A flat shallow outer continental shelf region is next to a conical continental slope bottom and a flat deep ocean center. The shelf flow consists of cellular convection cells descending into a region with very complicated baroclinic eddies. Extremely pronounced fronts are found at the shelf break and over the slope. Associated with these are sizable geostrophic currents along the shelf and over shelf break contours. Eddies are particularly energetic there. Cooling rate is compared with temperature difference between continental shelf and deep ocean. Scaling considerations produce an empirical best fit formula for temperature difference as a function of cooling rate. This produces a relatively straight regression line over a wide range of rotation rates, shelf depths and cooling rates. If this formula is valid for the ocean, water over continental shelves will be much colder due to constraints imposed by rotation of the earth than if the fluid were not rotating.
- Physical and Dynamic Oceanography