The thermocline and current structure in subtropical/subpolar basins

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Huang, Rui Xin
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Labrador Current
North Atlantic Current
10.1575/1912/ 3100
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Ocean currents
Part one of this thesis discusses the structure of the thermocline and the current pattern within a two-layer model. The corresponding flow field is explored as the amount of water in the upper layer is gradually reduced (or as the wind stress is gradually increased). In the model, when the amount of water in the upper layer is less than a first critical value, the lower layer outcrops near the middle of the western boundary. A dynamically consistent picture includes a whole loop of boundary currents, which surround the outcropping zone completely and have quite different structures. In addition to the boundary currents found in previous models, there is an isolated western boundary current (i.e. bounded on one side by the wall and on the other by a streamline along which the upper layer thickness vanishes), an internal boundary current and possibly isolated northern/southern boundary currents. Within the limitations of the two-layer model, the isolated western boundary current appears to represent the Labrador Current while the internal boundary current may represent the North Atlantic Current. A first baroclinic mode of water mass exchange occurs across the ZWCL (zero-wind-curl-line). When the amount of water in the upper layer is less than a second critical value, the upper layer separates from the eastern wall and becomes a warm water pool in the south-west corner of the basin. Under this warm water pool is the ventilated lower layer. The sea surface density distribution is not specified; it is determined from a consistent dynamical and mass balance. Implicit in this model is the assumption that advection dominates in the mixed layer. The subtropical gyre and the subpolar gyre combine asymmetrically with respect to the ZWCL. Chapter I discusses the case when the lower layer depth is infinite. Chapter II discusses the case when the lower layer depth is finite. In the Addendum the climatological meaning of this two-layer model is discussed. Part two of this thesis concerns the use of a continuously stratified model to represent the thermocline and current structures in subtropical/subpolar basins. The ideal fluid thermocline equation system Is a nonlinear, non-strict hyperbolic system. In an Addendum to Chapter III the mathematical properties of this equation system are studied and a proper way of formulating boundary value problems is discussed. Although the equations are not of standard type, so that no firm conclusions about the existence and uniqueness of solutions have been drawn, some possible approaches to properly posed boundary value problem are suggested. Chapter III presents some simple numerical solutions of the ideal fluid thermocline equation for a subtropical gyre and a subtropical/subpolar basin using one of these approaches. Our model predicts the continuous three dimensional thermocline and current structures in a continuously stratified wind-driven ocean. The upper surface density and Ekman pumping velocity are specified as input data; in addition, the functional form of the potential vorticity is specified. The present model emphasizes the idea that the ideal fluid thermocline model is incomplete. The potential vorticity distribution can not be determined within this idealized model. This suggests that the diffusion and upwelling/downwelling within the western boundary current and the outcropping zone in the north-west corner are important parts of the entire circulation system.
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 May 1984
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Huang, R. X. (1984). The thermocline and current structure in subtropical/subpolar basins [Doctoral thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution]. Woods Hole Open Access Server. 3100
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