Nonlinear vorticity balance of the Subantarctic Front in the southeast Pacific

Chereskin, TK, Talley LD, Sloyan BM.  2010.  Nonlinear vorticity balance of the Subantarctic Front in the southeast Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 115

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circulation, circumpolar current, currents, Drake Passage, fields, layer, mode, ocean, TOPEX/POSEIDON


Direct velocity observations from shipboard and lowered acoustic Doppler current profilers are used to examine the velocity and vorticity structure of the Subantarctic Front (SAF) between the East Pacific Rise and Drake Passage from surveys made in 2005 and 2006. The SAF is characterized by meanders of horizontal wavelength approximately 250-300 km in this region of relatively smooth topography. The depth-averaged SAF jet is observed to be closely aligned with the flow at 150 m, as in an equivalent barotropic flow. The barotropic or depth-averaged vorticity exhibits a balance between advection of planetary vorticity and relative vorticity, as would be seen in a Doppler-shifted short barotropic Rossby wave in a mean flow. The implied wave speed is consistent with the observed range of current speeds. An exponential fit to the vertical structure of the current consistent with the vorticity balance suggests a vertical decay scale of about 1900 m. The vorticity balance at 150 m implies a surface divergence which must be balanced at depth by a divergence of the opposite sign. The calculation confirms the tentative conclusions of Hughes (2005) for this region, which were based on a surface climatology but indicates a larger vertical decay scale and wave speed.






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