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Free Content Thermohaline forcing of eastern boundary currents: With application to the circulation off the west coast of Australia

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The linear, viscid, continuously stratified model of McCreary (1981) is extended to allow for thermohaline forcing by a specified, longitudinally independent, surface density field s. When the ocean is unbounded and s is steady, the density field is altered throughout the water column by vertical diffusion. If s increases poleward, the resulting pressure field slopes downward toward the pole in the upper water column, and there is an associated eastward geostrophic current. This interior current forces downwelling at an eastern ocean boundary, and generates a poleward surface coastal current and an equatorward undercurrent. For realistic choices of model parameters the coastal circulation is as strong as, and opposite in direction to, that caused by a typical equatorward wind stress y. When s oscillates at the annual cycle, the unbounded flowis confined to a surface boundary layer. The coastal circulation is qualitatively quasi-steady, but also has characteristics of a vertically propagating Kelvin wave.

One solution is forced by an idealized representation of the observed s and y fields off the west coast of Australia. This solution compares well with observations of the oceanic circulation there. In particular, there is a surface coastal jet (the model Leeuwin Current) that flows against the wind. This successful comparison suggests that the mean circulation in the region is significantly forced by s, whereas the annual variability is strongly forced by y.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 1986

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, 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. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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