Various dynamical aspects of nonlinear western boundary currents (WBCs) have been investigated experimentally through physical modeling in the 5-m-diameter rotating basin at SINTEF (Pierini et al., J. Phys. Oceanogr., 41, 2063, 2011). The motion of a piston with a velocity U that can be as low as U=0.5 mm/s induces a horizontally unsheared current of homogeneous water that, flowing over a topographic beta slope, experiences westward intensification. First, the character of WBCs for various degrees of nonlinearity is investigated. By varying U, flows ranging from the highly nonlinear inertial Charney regime down to a weakly nonlinear regime can be simulated. In the first case, the dependence of zonal length scales on U is found to be in agreement with Charney’s theory; for weaker flows, a markedly different functional dependence emerges describing the initial transition toward the linear, viscous case. This provides an unprecedented coverage of nonlinear WBC dependence on an amplitude parameter in terms of experimental data. WBC separation from a wedgeshaped continent past a cape (simulating Cape Hatteras) due to inertial overshooting is then analyzed. By increasing current speed, a critical behavior is identified according to which a very small change of U marks the transition from a WBC that follows the coast past the cape to a WBC (nearly dynamically similar to a full-scale Gulf Stream) that separates from the cape without any substantial deflection, as with the Gulf Stream Extension. The important effect of the deflection angle of the continent is analyzed as well. Finally, the qualitative effect of a sloping sidewall along a straight coast is considered: the deflection of the flow away from the western wall due to the tendency to preserve potential vorticity clearly emerges.

A laboratory study of western boundary currents, with application to the Gulf Stream separation due to inertial overshooting

PIERINI, Stefano;FALCO, Pierpaolo;
2013

Abstract

Various dynamical aspects of nonlinear western boundary currents (WBCs) have been investigated experimentally through physical modeling in the 5-m-diameter rotating basin at SINTEF (Pierini et al., J. Phys. Oceanogr., 41, 2063, 2011). The motion of a piston with a velocity U that can be as low as U=0.5 mm/s induces a horizontally unsheared current of homogeneous water that, flowing over a topographic beta slope, experiences westward intensification. First, the character of WBCs for various degrees of nonlinearity is investigated. By varying U, flows ranging from the highly nonlinear inertial Charney regime down to a weakly nonlinear regime can be simulated. In the first case, the dependence of zonal length scales on U is found to be in agreement with Charney’s theory; for weaker flows, a markedly different functional dependence emerges describing the initial transition toward the linear, viscous case. This provides an unprecedented coverage of nonlinear WBC dependence on an amplitude parameter in terms of experimental data. WBC separation from a wedgeshaped continent past a cape (simulating Cape Hatteras) due to inertial overshooting is then analyzed. By increasing current speed, a critical behavior is identified according to which a very small change of U marks the transition from a WBC that follows the coast past the cape to a WBC (nearly dynamically similar to a full-scale Gulf Stream) that separates from the cape without any substantial deflection, as with the Gulf Stream Extension. The important effect of the deflection angle of the continent is analyzed as well. Finally, the qualitative effect of a sloping sidewall along a straight coast is considered: the deflection of the flow away from the western wall due to the tendency to preserve potential vorticity clearly emerges.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11367/32417
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