Steering of Upper Ocean Currents and Fronts by the Topographically Constrained Abyssal Circulation
NAVAL RESEARCH LAB STENNIS SPACE CENTER MS OCEANOGRAPHY DIV
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A two-layer theory is used to investigate 1 the steering of upper ocean current pathways by topographically constrained abyssal currents that do not impinge on the bottom topography and 2 its application to upper ocean - topographic coupling via flow instabilities where topographically constrained eddy-driven deep mean flows in turn steer the mean pathways of upper ocean currents and associated fronts. In earlier studies the two-layer theory was applied to ocean models with low vertical resolution 2-6 layers. Here we investigate its relevance to complex ocean general circulation models OGCMs with high vertical resolution that are designed to simulate a wide range of ocean processes. The theory can be easily applied to models ranging from idealized to complex OGCMs, provided it is valid for the application. It can also be used in understanding some persistent features seen in observed ocean frontal pathways over deep water derived from satellite imagery and other data. To facilitate its application, a more thorough explanation of the theory is presented that emphasizes its range of validity. Three regions of the world ocean are used to investigate its application to eddy-resolving ocean models with high vertical resolution, including one where an assumption of the two-layer theory is violated. Results from the OGCMs with high vertical resolution are compared to those from models with low vertical resolution and to observations. In the Kuroshio region upper ocean - topographic coupling via flow instabilities and a modest seamount complex are used to explain the observed northward mean meander east of Japan where the Kuroshio separates from the coast. The JapanEast Sea JES is used to demonstrate the impact of upper ocean - topographic coupling in a relatively weak flow regime.
- Physical and Dynamic Oceanography