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Free Content Recirculation and separation of boundary currents

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An inertial multi-layer model of the recirculation gyres surrounding a separated boundary current is presented. The boundary current is defined to be separated when the upper layer thickness vanishes. The strong eastward flow found at the outcrop causes the circulation to extend to the bottom through baroclinic instability. In order to decrease the vertical shear responsible for the instability, the deep flow must also have maximum eastward velocity at the outcrop latitude. Thus the deep flow to the north of the outcrop (where no upper fluid is present) must move so as to keep velocity continuous. The eastward flowing deep water is returned in a westward flow to the south and north of the separation latitude. Thus in the upper layer we find a single anticyclonic gyre bounded by the outcrop latitude to the north, while the deep circulation is characterized by two almost antisymmetric counterrotating gyres. The recirculating gyres are defined as regions in which the flow conserves potential vorticity and Bernoulli function, and are surrounded by motionless fluid. The model predicts the location of the separation latitude and of the gyres' boundaries, together with the flow inside the gyres, as functions of the potential vorticity and Bernoulli function in each layer.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 1990

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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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