Formation of anticyclones above topographic depressions


Solodoch A, Stewart AL, McWilliams JC. Formation of anticyclones above topographic depressions. Journal of Physical Oceanography [Internet]. 2021;51 :207-228.
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Long-lived anticyclonic eddies (ACs) have been repeatedly observed over several North Atlantic basins characterized by bowl-like topographic depressions. Motivated by these previous findings, the authors conduct numerical simulations of the spindown of eddies initialized in idealized topographic bowls. In experiments with one or two isopycnal layers, it is found that a bowl-trapped AC is an emergent circulation pattern under a wide range of parameters. The trapped AC, often formed by repeated mergers of ACs over the bowl interior, is characterized by anomalously low potential vorticity (PV). Several PV segregation mechanisms that can contribute to the AC formation are examined. In one-layer experiments, the dynamics of the AC are largely determined by a nonlinearity parameter ϵ that quantifies the vorticity of the AC relative to the bowl’s topographic PV gradient. The AC is trapped in the bowl for low ϵ≲1, but for moderate values (0.5≲ϵ≲1) partial PV segregation allows the AC to reside at finite distances from the center of the bowl. For higher ϵ≳1, eddies freely cross the topography and the AC is not confined to the bowl. These regimes are characterized across a suite of model experiments using ϵ and a PV homogenization parameter. Two-layer experiments show that the trapped AC can be top or bottom intensified, as determined by the domain-mean initial vertical energy distribution. These findings contrast with previous theories of mesoscale turbulence over topography that predict the formation of a prograde slope current, but do not predict a trapped AC.

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Last updated on 05/24/2021