Observations of near-inertial current variability on the New England shelf

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Shearman, R. Kipp
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Continental shelf processes
Analytical modeling
Internal and inertial waves
Observations from the Coastal Mixing and Optics (CMO) moored array (deployed from August 1996 through June 1997) and supplemental moored observations are used to describe near-inertial current variability over the New England shelf. Near-inertial band current variance comprises 10–20% of the total observed current variance, and has episodic peak speeds exceeding 30 cm s−1. Near-inertial current variability during CMO is characterized by a first baroclinic mode vertical structure with one zero-crossing between 15 and 50 m. The zero-crossing is shallower during periods of stronger stratification. Laterally, near-inertial variability is coherent over the extent of the CMO moored array, and cross-shelf decorrelation scales for near-inertial currents are about 100 km, approximately the entire shelf width. The magnitude of near-surface near-inertial variability is stronger in the summer and weaker in the winter, following the seasonal variation in stratification and opposite the seasonal cycle in wind stress variance. During CMO, near-surface near-inertial kinetic energy is inversely related to surface mixed layer depth. Near-inertial variance decreases onshore, matching approximately the cross-shelf decrease in near-inertial energy predicted by a two-dimensional, linear, flat-bottom, two-layer, coastal wall model. In this model, the nullifying effects of a baroclinic wave emanating from the coastal wall play a dominant role in controlling the onshore decrease. Finally, strong persistent anticyclonic relative vorticity shifts near-inertial variability on the New England shelf to subinertial frequencies.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2005. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research 110 (2005): C02012, doi:10.1029/2004JC002341.
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Journal of Geophysical Research 110 (2005): C02012
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