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Free Content The response of the coastal ocean to strong offshore winds: With application to circulations in the Gulfs of Tehuantepec and Papagayo

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Two ocean models are used to investigate the response of the coastal ocean to strong offshore winds: a linear 1½-layer model, and a nonlinear 1½-layer model that allows entrainment of cool water into the surface layer. The models are forced by wind stress fields similar in structure to the intense winter-time, mountain-pass jets (∼20 dyne/cm2) that appear in the Gulfs of Tehuantepec and Papagayo for periods of 3–10 days. Solutions are arranged in a hierarchy of increasing dynamical complexity, in order to illustrate the important physical processes. They compare favorably with observations in several ways.

Some properties of solutions are the following. While the wind strengthens there is an ageostrophic current (not Ekman drift) that is directed offshore. This offshore drift forces coastal upwelling, thereby lowering the local sea level and sea surface temperature (SST). Although the drop in sea level at the coast can be large and rapid (of the order of 20 cm at the peak of a wind event), none of this signal propagates poleward as a coastally trapped wave. While the wind weakens the ageostrophic current is directed onshore, and consequently the coastal ocean readjusts toward its initial state. Throughout the wind event, cyclonic and anticyclonic gyres spin up offshore on either side of the jet axis due to Ekman pumping. Entrainment cools SST offshore, on and to the right (looking onshore) of the jet axis, and virtually eliminates the cyclonic gyre. The advection terms intensify the anticyclonic gyre and give it a more circular shape. After a wind event, the anticyclonic gyre propagates westward due to . Its propagation speed is enhanced over that of a linear Rossby wave due to the nonlinear terms associated with the increased layer thickness at the center of the gyre and with the divergence of momentum flux.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 1989

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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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