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Rossby wormholes

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Abstract:

The influence of bottom topography on the westward propagation of long, baroclinic Rossby waves is studied analytically in a two-layer ocean model. In the limit of a thin upper layer, scaling analysis suggests that the waves should be relatively insensitive to variable bottom topography; however, this insensitivity can break down in regions of closed f/H contours, where f is the Coriolis parameter and H the ocean depth. An integral constraint is derived in the planetary-geostrophic limit, showing that the net radiative flux of upper layer thickness anomalies into a closed f/H contour, at its eastern margin, is balanced by an equivalent radiation of upper layer thickness anomalies out of the closed f/H contour, at its western margin. The consequence of this, and a related integral constraint for the upper layer thickness tendency, is that westward-propagating upper layer thickness anomalies can partially disappear on one side of a closed f/H contour and, near instantaneously, reappear on the other — a "Rossby wormhole." In practice, this partial jumping of westward propagating upper layer thickness anomalies across an f/H contour is accomplished by conversions between the baroclinic and barotropic wave modes, and the generation of transient barotropic recirculations around the f/H contour. The Rossby wormhole mechanism is illustrated in a series of numerical calculations with a two-layer primitive equation model. A corollary is that the reduced-gravity model of the large-scale ocean circulation can break down in the presence of closed f/H contours, even when the conventional scaling requirements for its validity appear to be satisfied.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1357/002224011798765213

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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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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