Publications

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2018
Tort, M, Winters KB.  2018.  Poleward propagation of near-inertial waves induced by fluctuating winds over a baroclinically unstable zonal jet. Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 834:510-530.   10.1017/jfm.2017.698   AbstractWebsite

We investigate the excitation and radiation of near-inertial internal gravity waves continuously excited by a latitudinally confined temporally fluctuating wind in a numerical model of a stratified ocean on a beta-plane at mid-latitude. The surface wind forcing contains both high- and low-frequency components which excite propagating waves and a baroclinically unstable zonal jet respectively. Wentzel-Kramers-Brillouin (WKB) ray theory implies that near-inertial waves propagate strictly towards the equator. We seek to refine this view here by (i) adding the non-traditional Coriolis force (accounting for the horizontal component of the Earth's rotation) into the equations of motion, in order to allow poleward sub-inertial propagation to occur, and (ii) relaxing the conceptual constraint of no zonal variability, to allow the zonal jet to undergo instability, to meander and to sustain an active field of mesoscale eddies, potentially impacting the excitation of near-inertial waves. The key results are that, while (i) permits weakly stratified waveguides with sub-inertial poleward wave propagation to develop in accord with theory, the sub-inertial energy flux observed is very small compared with the equatorward flux. Thus, in terms of energy radiated from the storm track, non-traditional effects are small for wind-driven near-inertial waves. The consequences of (ii) are much more pronounced. Refinement (ii) produces a radiating wave field that is bidirectional, i.e. with both poleward and equatorward components. We show that the presence of regions of significant background vorticity with horizontal scales significantly smaller than the width of the storm track provides the scale selection mechanism to excite waves with sufficiently super-inertial frequencies to propagate poleward distances of the order of 1000 km.

2012
Ponte, AL, de Velasco GG, Valle-Levinson A, Winters KB, Winant CD.  2012.  Wind-driven subinertial circulation inside a semienclosed bay in the Gulf of California. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 42:940-955.   10.1175/jpo-d-11-0103.1   AbstractWebsite

Moored current and pressure observations were obtained at Bahia Concepcion, a semienclosed bay located on the eastern side of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, to describe the wind-driven subinertial circulation. In winter and early spring, the bay is well mixed and forced by persistent winds toward the southeast, aligned with the central axis. The authors' observations show that the sea surface rises downwind in response to wind stress and that there exists a crosswind drift at the surface that is consistent with Ekman dynamics. This feature is typical of a bay that is deeper than one Ekman depth and hence affected by the rotation of the earth. There is a persistent along-bay circulation toward the end of the bay along its western side with return flow on the opposite side. Drifters released near the surface across a transect move westward and downwind toward the closed end, where they recirculate cyclonically. Wind-driven linear theoretical models successfully predict the observed cross-bay circulation but fail to predict the along-bay flow pattern. The role of spatial inhomogeneities of wind stress (suggested by synoptic observations of the wind) and nonlinearities related to advection of momentum is investigated with theoretical and numerical modeling. Both mechanisms can contribute to the observed pattern of along-bay circulation. Even though the observations discussed were taken during the relatively well-mixed season, density fluctuations are shown to play, at times, an active role dynamically.