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A study of the omega equation for diagnosing vertical motions at ocean fronts

Authors: Pinot, Jean-Michel; Tintoré, Joaquín; Wang, Dong-Ping

Source: Journal of Marine Research, Volume 54, Number 2, 1 March 1996 , pp. 239-259(21)

Publisher: Sears Foundation for Marine Research

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Abstract:

Estimation of vertical velocity is a key issue for understanding ocean physics and transport of biogeochemical tracers. We examine the accuracy of estimating vertical velocity in fronts with the omega equation. The diagnostic performance of the omega equation is evaluated by using vertical velocities obtained from simulation of frontal instabilities in a primitive equation model as a reference. We use two traditional quasigeostrophic methods in which the flow is either a geostrophic flow computed from density or a nondivergent flow derived from vorticity and also test two new formulations: a quasigeostrophic method using the total flow field and the semigeostrophic omega equation. Results show that all four formulations correctly diagnose the vertical velocity pattern. However, estimates provided by the traditional quasigeostrophic formulations have systematic bias. In contrast, the two new techniques, which are practically equivalent, produce unbiased vertical velocity diagnostic at fronts. These results point out the importance of including higher order dynamics than quasigeostrophy to take into account the ageostrophic advection in the front. Since adequate filtering of ADCP data is not yet available to obtain a suitable total flow, the semigeostrophic omega equation is proposed as the most valuable tool to compute vertical velocities from high resolution density measurements.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1357/0022240963213358

Publication date: March 1, 1996

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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