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Onset of time-dependence in a double-gyre circulation: Barotropic basin modes versus classical baroclinic modes

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Using a fully-implicit high-resolution two-layer quasi-geostrophic model combined with pseudo-arclength continuation methods, we perform a bifurcation analysis of double-gyre ocean flows to study their initial oscillatory instabilities. In this model, both wind- and thermally-forced flows can be represented. We demonstrate that on the branch of anti-symmetric steady-state solutions the ratio, Ω, of the flow advective speed to the long internal Rossby wave speed determines the type of oscillatory modes to first become unstable. This is the same nondimensional parameter that controls the shape of the geostrophic contours in the linear limit of the circulation. For large values of Ω, the first Hopf bifurcations correspond to the classical baroclinic modes with inter-monthly time periods arising from shear instability of the flow. For small values of Ω, the first Hopf bifurcations correspond instead to barotropic Rossby modes with shorter, monthly periods arising from mixed barotropic-baroclinic instability of the flow. By considering both a wind-forced and a thermally-forced ocean, we show that this is a robust feature that does not depend on the type of forcing driving the circulation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-03-01

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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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