Interaction of an eddy with a continental slope
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LocationEastern U.S. Continental Margin
Gulf of Mexico
This study concerns the barotropic interactions between a mesoscale eddy and a straight monotonic bottom topography. Through simple to relatively complicated modeling effort, some of the fundamental properties of the interaction are investigated. In chapter two, the fundamental aspects of the interaction are examined using a simple contour dynamics model. With the simplest model configuration of an ideal vortex and a step topography, the basic dynamical features of the observed oceanic eddy-topography interaction are qualitatively reproduced. The results consist of eddy-induced cross-topography exchange, formation of topographic eddies, eddy propagation and generation of topographic waves. In chapter three, a more complicated primitive equation model is used to investigate a mesoscale eddy interacting with an exponential continental shelf/slope topography on both f and β-planes. The f-plane model recasts the important features of chapter two. The roles of the eddy size and strength and the geometry of topography are studied. It is seen that the multiple anticyclonic eddy-slope interactions strongly affect the total cross-slope volume transport and the evolution of both the original anticyclone and the topographic eddy. Since a cyclone is trapped at the slope and eventually moves on to the slope, it is most effective in causing perturbation on the shelf and slope. The responses on the shelf and slope are mainly wavelike with dispersion relation obeying that of the free shelf-trapped wave modes. On the β-plane, the problem of an eddy colliding onto a continental shelf/slope from a distance with straight or oblique incident angles is investigated. It is found that the straight eddy incident is more effective in achieving large onslope eddy penetration distance than the oblique eddy incident. The formation of a dipole-like eddy pair consisting of the original anticyclone and the topographic cyclone acts to suppress the eddy decay due to long Rossby wave radiation. A weak along-slope current near the edge of the slope is found, which is part of a outer slope circulation cell originated from the Rossby wave wake trailing the propagating eddy. Model-observation comparisons in_chapter four show favorable qualitative agreement of the model results with some of the observed events in the eastern U.S. continental margins and in the Gulf of Mexico. The model results give dynamical interpretations to some observed features of the oceanic eddy-topography interactions and provide enlightening insight into the problem.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution September 1992
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