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Free Content Barotropic instabilities of the Agulhas Current system and their relation to ring formation

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Recent work has shown that different steady retroflection regimes, a viscous and an inertial regime, exist for the Agulhas Current system in an idealized geometry. In this paper, instabilities of the barotropic steady flows are considered by solving the linear stability problem numerically. Barotropic instabilities occur as so-called Hopf bifurcations in the viscous regime, with corresponding patterns related to Rossby basin modes. Depending on the value of the reduced gravity parameter, these instabilities may introduce intermonthly to interannual variability into the retroflection region. Finite amplitude development of these instabilities display 'ring-like' localized anomaly patterns which travel around the tip of the continent. The results demonstrate that, within the barotropic context, (i) the frequency of the ring formation is set by the physics of the large-scale instabilities and (ii) the rectification processes due to these instabilities decrease the degree of retroflection of the mean state. The latter result suggests that the dominant mechanism of the retroflection is captured within the steady balances.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2001

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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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