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Free Content Topography and barotropic transport control by bottom friction

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The problem of the stratified general circulation in the presence of topography is revisited. The novel effect examined here is that of localized, but large-scale, topographic anomalies on the wind-driven circulation, a problem whose relevance is found in the occurrence of many such features in the open ocean. Using the classical methods of homogenization theory, it is argued that the barotropic transport near topography can come under the direct control of bottom friction. This result differs substantively from either the well-known Sverdrup constraint (which applies to a flatbottomed ocean, or to one with a resting deep layer) or its recent extensions that allow for planar bottom topographic profiles.

Bottom friction emerges as a controlling parameter roughly in the event that the topography forms closed f/(Hhb) contours, where Hhb is the total fluid depth, although the theoretical minimum requirements are somewhat looser than this. Our analytical predictions are supported by numerical experimentation with a multi-layer quasi-geostrophic model, and we examine some mean flow observations from the North and South Atlantic in light of the theory. In particular, the theory can rationalize the 100 Sv transport observed recently around the Zapiola Drift.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1998

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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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