Multiple Equilibria, Periodic, and Aperiodic Solutions in a Wind-Driven, Double-Gyre, Shallow-Water Model

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
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Abstract

A reduced-gravity shallow-water (SW) model is used to study the nonlinear behavior of western boundary currents (WBCs), with particular emphasis on multiple equilibria and low-frequency variations. When the meridionally symmetric wind stress is sufficiently strong, two steady solutions–nearly antisymmetric about the x axis–are achieved from different initial states. These results imply that 1) the inertial WBCs could overshoot either southward or northward along the western boundary, depending on their initial states; and thus, 2) the WBC separation and eastward jet could occur either north or south of the maximum wind stress line. The two equilibria arise via a perturbed pitchfork bifurcation, as the wind stress increases. A low-order, double-gyre, quasigeostrophic (QG) model is studied analytically to provide further insight into the physical nature of this bifurcation. In this model, the basic state is exactly antisymmetric when the wind stress is symmetric. The perturbations destroying the symmetry of the pitchfork bifurcation can arise, therefore. in the QG model only from the asymmetric components of the wind stress. In the SW model, the antisymmetry of the system's basic response to the symmetric forcing is destroyed already at arbitrarily low wind stress. The pitchfork bifurcation from this basic state to more complex states at high wind stress is accordingly perturbed in the absence of any forcing asymmetry.

Periodic solutions arise by Hopf bifurcation from either steady-state branch of the SW model. A purely periodic solution is studied in detail. The subtropical and subpolar recirculations, separation, and eastward jet exhibit a perfectly periodic oscillation with a period of about 2.8 years. Outside the recirculation zones, the solutions are nearly steady. The alternating anomalies of the upper-layer thickness are periodically generated adjacent to the ridge of the first and strongest downstream meander and are then propagated and advected into the two WBC zones, by Rossby waves and the recirculating currents, respectively. These anomalies periodically change the pressure gradient field near the WBCs and maintain the periodic oscillation. Aperiodic solutions are also studied by either increasing wind forcing or decreasing the viscosity.

Abstract

A reduced-gravity shallow-water (SW) model is used to study the nonlinear behavior of western boundary currents (WBCs), with particular emphasis on multiple equilibria and low-frequency variations. When the meridionally symmetric wind stress is sufficiently strong, two steady solutions–nearly antisymmetric about the x axis–are achieved from different initial states. These results imply that 1) the inertial WBCs could overshoot either southward or northward along the western boundary, depending on their initial states; and thus, 2) the WBC separation and eastward jet could occur either north or south of the maximum wind stress line. The two equilibria arise via a perturbed pitchfork bifurcation, as the wind stress increases. A low-order, double-gyre, quasigeostrophic (QG) model is studied analytically to provide further insight into the physical nature of this bifurcation. In this model, the basic state is exactly antisymmetric when the wind stress is symmetric. The perturbations destroying the symmetry of the pitchfork bifurcation can arise, therefore. in the QG model only from the asymmetric components of the wind stress. In the SW model, the antisymmetry of the system's basic response to the symmetric forcing is destroyed already at arbitrarily low wind stress. The pitchfork bifurcation from this basic state to more complex states at high wind stress is accordingly perturbed in the absence of any forcing asymmetry.

Periodic solutions arise by Hopf bifurcation from either steady-state branch of the SW model. A purely periodic solution is studied in detail. The subtropical and subpolar recirculations, separation, and eastward jet exhibit a perfectly periodic oscillation with a period of about 2.8 years. Outside the recirculation zones, the solutions are nearly steady. The alternating anomalies of the upper-layer thickness are periodically generated adjacent to the ridge of the first and strongest downstream meander and are then propagated and advected into the two WBC zones, by Rossby waves and the recirculating currents, respectively. These anomalies periodically change the pressure gradient field near the WBCs and maintain the periodic oscillation. Aperiodic solutions are also studied by either increasing wind forcing or decreasing the viscosity.

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