Depth-integrated steric height as a tool for detecting non-Sverdrup behavior in the global ocean

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Abstract:

Godfrey's (1989) (referred to below as G89) calculation of the global field of annual mean Depth-Integrated Steric Height, or Sverdrup et al.'s (1942) "Transport Function," (Q) is revisited, using newer products for wind stresses, temperature and salinity. Observed Q and its wind-estimated equivalent QW are compared more extensively along eastern oceanic boundaries than in G89. Q and QW are also compared along the inner edge of the Pacific western boundary, at locations where G89 theory suggests that such a comparison is possible. A similar comparison along the western Atlantic improves after a 16 Sv correction for the supply of North Atlantic Deep Water. The observed circumpolar zero contour of Q is used to define an "ACC boundary." South of it, G89 fails grossly as expected. North of the boundary in each ocean basin, a "tongue" of high Q, about 1000 km wide, extends much farther eastward from its western boundary source than in comparable features in the northern hemisphere. The uninterrupted existence of this tongue across the full width of the Indian Ocean occurs because there is no analog in Q to the strong "meridional tip jet" west of southern Tasmania, found in QW—i.e. the East Australian Current is weaker in observed Q than predicted by G89. Elsewhere, each MTJ in QW does have an analog in observed Q; but the latter jets tend to follow local Sverdrup flow rather than being zonal. A final section provides qualitative discussion of the possible dynamics of these observed departures of Q from Sverdrup balance, north of the ACC.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1357/002224010794657100

Publication date: May 1, 2010

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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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