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Jet Formation and Evolution in Baroclinic Turbulence with Simple Topography

Thompson, Andrew F. (2010) Jet Formation and Evolution in Baroclinic Turbulence with Simple Topography. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 40 (2). pp. 257-278. ISSN 0022-3670.

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Satellite altimetry and high-resolution ocean models indicate that the Southern Ocean comprises an intricate web of narrow, meandering jets that undergo spontaneous formation, merger, and splitting events, as well as rapid latitude shifts over periods of weeks to months. The role of topography in controlling jet variability is explored using over 100 simulations from a doubly periodic, forced-dissipative, two-layer quasigeostrophic model. The system is forced by a baroclinically unstable, vertically sheared mean flow in a domain that is large enough to accommodate multiple jets. The dependence of (i) meridional jet spacing, (ii) jet variability, and (iii) domain-averaged meridional transport on changes in the length scale and steepness of simple sinusoidal topographical features is analyzed. The Rhines scale, ℓ_β = 2π(V_e/β)^½, where V_e is an eddy velocity scale and β is the barotropic potential vorticity gradient, measures the meridional extent of eddy mixing by a single jet. The ratio ℓ_β /ℓ_T, where ℓ_T is the topographic length scale, governs jet behavior. Multiple, steady jets with fixed meridional spacing are observed when ℓ_β ≫ ℓ_T or when ℓ_β ≈ ℓ_T. When ℓ_β < ℓ_T, a pattern of perpetual jet formation and jet merger dominates the time evolution of the system. Zonal ridges systematically reduce the domain-averaged meridional transport, while two-dimensional, sinusoidal bumps can increase transport by an order of magnitude or more. For certain parameters, bumpy topography gives rise to periodic oscillations in the jet structure between purely zonal and topographically steered states. In these cases, transport is dominated by bursts of mixing associated with the transition between the two regimes. Topography modifies local potential vorticity (PV) gradients and mean flows; this can generate asymmetric Reynolds stresses about the jet core and can feed back on the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy through baroclinic instability. Both processes contribute to unsteady jet behavior. It is likely that these processes play a role in the dynamic nature of Southern Ocean jets.

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Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Additional Information:© 2010 American Meteorological Society. Received: January 15, 2009; Accepted: August 21, 2009. The code used to calculate the effective diffusivities was provided by Peter Haynes. Insightful conversations with Pavel Berloff, Peter Haynes, Alberto Naveira Garabato, and David Stevens that improved this manuscript are gratefully acknowledged. This work was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Postdoctoral Fellowship.
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Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Jets, Turbulence, Baroclinic models, Orographic effects, Ocean models
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130410-081403122
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Official Citation: Thompson, Andrew F., 2010: Jet Formation and Evolution in Baroclinic Turbulence with Simple Topography. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 40, 257–278. doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:37842
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:10 Apr 2013 15:48
Last Modified:27 Sep 2017 18:53

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