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Free Content Influence of mean circulation on large-scale decadal basin modes

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The effect of large-scale mean circulation on the generic property of intrinsic basin modes of decadal variability is investigated through linear stability analysis of a two-layer shallow water model over a flat- and a variable-bottom topography. The mean circulation is forced through either surface wind stress or vertical velocities at the layers interface representing surface heat flux. Regardless of the type of forcing, the large-scale mean circulation reduces the damping of the decadal basin modes. The wind forcing mostly affects the mode damping, by up to 30% for a climatological amplitude, whereas the heat flux forcing mostly increases the oscillation period, by several years (up to 30%). The oscillation period, characteristic of the adjustment process to the steady mean flow, displays, however, different behavior depending on the meridional shift of the eastward barotropic advection in the region of maximum basin mode amplitude: The period gets shortened (lengthened) in the wind-forced (thermally forced) experiment with respect to the unforced one. The results are rationalized through the analysis of long Rossby waves propagation and underscore the key role of two processes in setting the oscillation period of the basin adjustment: (1) changes in Rossby wave speed due to changes in isopycnals depth and (2) changes in the mean barotropic zonal flow. These processes reinforce each other in the thermal-forcing case, resulting in large modifications of the mode period, but almost compensate in the wind-forced case, resulting in slight changes of the mode period, compared with the reference rest state.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2014

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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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