On the weakly nonlinear Ekman layer : thickness and flux
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The first-order effects of nonlinearity on the thickness and frictionally driven flux in the Ekman layer are described for the case of an Ekman layer on a solid, flat plate driven by an overlying geostrophic flow as well as the Ekman layer on a free surface driven by a wind stress in the presence of a deep geostrophic current. In both examples, the fluid is homogeneous. Particular attention is paid to the effect of nonlinearity in determining the thickness of the Ekman layer in both cases. An analytical expression for the Ekman layer thickness as a function of Rossby number is given when the Rossby number is small. The result is obtained by insisting that the perturbation expansion of the Ekman problem in powers of the Rossby number remains uniformly valid. There are two competing physical effects. The relative vorticity of the geostrophic currents tends to reduce the width of the layer, but the vertical velocity induced in the layer can fatten or thin the layer depending on the sign of the vertical velocity. The regularized expansion is shown to give, to lowest order, expressions for the flux in agreement with earlier calculations.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2008. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Physical Oceanography 38 (2008): 1334-1339, doi:10.1175/2007JPO3830.1.
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