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Lateral Wave Breaking and “Shingle” Formation in Large-Scale Shear Flow

Melvin E. SternGraduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI 02882

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Abstract

The temporal evolution of large amplitude quasi-geostrophic disturbances in a piecewise uniform potential vorticity flow is elucidated by numerical solutions of the “contour dynamica” equations. Lateral wavebreaking occurs when the initial disturbance amplitude exceeds a certain value, and at later times tongues of the 1ower vorticity fluid are engulfed or entrained into the higher vorticity shear flow. The effect appears to be important for the evolution of “shingles” observed between the coastal water and the cyclonic side of the Gulf Stream. The effect may also be in important phase in initiating the mixing process at the perimeter of an eddy embedded in another water mass.

Abstract

The temporal evolution of large amplitude quasi-geostrophic disturbances in a piecewise uniform potential vorticity flow is elucidated by numerical solutions of the “contour dynamica” equations. Lateral wavebreaking occurs when the initial disturbance amplitude exceeds a certain value, and at later times tongues of the 1ower vorticity fluid are engulfed or entrained into the higher vorticity shear flow. The effect appears to be important for the evolution of “shingles” observed between the coastal water and the cyclonic side of the Gulf Stream. The effect may also be in important phase in initiating the mixing process at the perimeter of an eddy embedded in another water mass.

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