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Free Content Mechanism of eddy separation from coastal currents

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A series of multi-layer numerical experiments show that classical finite amplitude instabilities in boundary currents are not sufficient to account for the pinched-off eddies observed in the ocean and in laboratory experiments. These instabilities (barotropic or baroclinic) are shown to lead to an entrainment of offshore fluid into the boundary currents. Eddy separation, on the other hand, requires an additional process, such as a larger scale of motion containing a downstream velocity convergence of finite amplitude; this might be produced by long period fluctuations in the discharge from an upstream source region which controls the boundary current, or by topographic features. In our spatially idealized model, we numerically computed the temporal evolution of an assumed initial state consisting of a fast moving upstream region separated by a potential vorticity front from a slow moving downstream region. We verify long-wave theories which show that this initial state indeed leads to frontal steepening and to a blocking wave. This eventually produces large transverse velocities followed by complete detrainment of eddies without any entrainment into the residual boundary current.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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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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