A Caltech Library Service

Cross-equatorial channel flow with zero potential vorticity under the complete Coriolis force

Stewart, A. L. and Dellar, P. J. (2012) Cross-equatorial channel flow with zero potential vorticity under the complete Coriolis force. IMA Journal of Applied Mathematics, 77 (5). pp. 626-651. ISSN 0272-4960. doi:10.1093/imamat/hxs045.

Full text is not posted in this repository. Consult Related URLs below.

Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


We investigate the cross-equatorial flow of deep ocean currents through a channel along the sea floor using the 1½-layer or equivalent-barotropic shallow water equations. We restrict our attention to flows with zero potential vorticity, motivated by measurements of the deep Atlantic ocean, and focus on the role of the so-called non-traditional components of the Coriolis force due to the locally horizontal component of the Earth's rotation vector. These components are typically neglected in theoretical studies of ocean dynamics. We first obtain steady asymptotic solutions in a straight-walled channel by assuming that the channel half-length is much larger than the intrinsic lengthscale, the equatorial Rossby deformation radius. The leading-order solution describes a current that switches from the western to the eastern side of the channel as it crosses from the southern to the northern hemisphere. Including the non-traditional component of the Coriolis force substantially increases the cross-equatorial transport as long as the flow is everywhere northwards, but substantially decreases the transport if part of the flow retroflects and returns to the southern hemisphere. We compare our steady asymptotic solutions with time-dependent numerical solutions of the non-traditional shallow water equations. We impose the a priori assumption of zero potential vorticity by writing the fluid's absolute angular momentum as the gradient of a scalar potential. The time-average of our numerical solutions converges to our steady asymptotic solutions in the limit of large channel length, with an error of only around 1% even when our asymptotic parameter ε is equal to 1. However, our solutions diverge when the layer depth is sufficiently small that portions of the flow become super-critical. The resulting formation of steady shocks prevents the time-dependent solution from approaching the asymptotic solution.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Stewart, A. L.0000-0001-5861-4070
Additional Information:© 2012 The authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. Received August 17, 2011. Revision received June 7, 2012. Accepted June 12, 2012. First published online: August 1, 2012. ALS would like to thank the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications for his selection as a finalist for the 2011 Lighthill-Thwaites prize. The authors would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers whose comments contributed to the preparation of the manuscript. Funding: This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through a PhD Plus award to A.L.S. and an Advanced Research Fellowship [grant number EP/E054625/1] to P.J.D.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/E054625/1
Subject Keywords:complete Coriolis force; cross-equatorial currents; zero potential vorticity; shallow water; asymptotic solutions; finite-volume methods
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20121030-094655609
Persistent URL:
Official Citation: A. L. Stewart and P. J. Dellar Cross-equatorial channel flow with zero potential vorticity under the complete Coriolis force IMA J Appl Math (2012) 77(5): 626-651 first published online August 1, 2012 doi:10.1093/imamat/hxs045
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:35172
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:30 Oct 2012 19:09
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:13

Repository Staff Only: item control page