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Lagrangian Motion and Fluid Exchange in a Barotropic Meandering Jet

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  • 1 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
  • | 2 Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey
  • | 3 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
  • | 4 Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
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Abstract

Kinematic models predict that a coherent structure, such as a jet or an eddy, in an unsteady flow can exchange fluid with its surroundings. The authors consider the significance of this effect for a fully nonlinear, dynamically consistent, barotropic model of a meandering jet. The calculated volume transport associated with this fluid exchange is comparable to that of fluid crossing the Gulf Stream through the detachment of rings. Although the model is barotropic and idealized in other ways, the transport calculations suggest that this exchange mechanism may be important in lateral transport or potential vorticity budget analyses for the Gulf Stream and other oceanic jets. The numerically simulated meandering jet is obtained by allowing a small-amplitude unstable meander to grow until a saturated state occurs. The resulting flow is characterized by finite-amplitude meanders propagating with nearly constant speed, and the results clearly illustrate the stretching and stirring of fluid particles along the edges of the recirculation regions south of the meander crests and north of the troughs. The fluid exchange and resulting transport across boundaries separating regions of predominantly prograde, retrograde, and recirculating motion is quantified using a dynamical systems analysis. The geometrical structures that result from the analysis are shown to be closely correlated with regions of the flow that are susceptible to high potential vorticity dissipation. Moreover, in a related study this analysis has been used to effectively predict the entrainment and detrainment of particles to and from the jet.

Corresponding author address: Dr. A. M. Rogerson, MS #21, Room 304A, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1541.

Email: arogerson@whoi.edu

Abstract

Kinematic models predict that a coherent structure, such as a jet or an eddy, in an unsteady flow can exchange fluid with its surroundings. The authors consider the significance of this effect for a fully nonlinear, dynamically consistent, barotropic model of a meandering jet. The calculated volume transport associated with this fluid exchange is comparable to that of fluid crossing the Gulf Stream through the detachment of rings. Although the model is barotropic and idealized in other ways, the transport calculations suggest that this exchange mechanism may be important in lateral transport or potential vorticity budget analyses for the Gulf Stream and other oceanic jets. The numerically simulated meandering jet is obtained by allowing a small-amplitude unstable meander to grow until a saturated state occurs. The resulting flow is characterized by finite-amplitude meanders propagating with nearly constant speed, and the results clearly illustrate the stretching and stirring of fluid particles along the edges of the recirculation regions south of the meander crests and north of the troughs. The fluid exchange and resulting transport across boundaries separating regions of predominantly prograde, retrograde, and recirculating motion is quantified using a dynamical systems analysis. The geometrical structures that result from the analysis are shown to be closely correlated with regions of the flow that are susceptible to high potential vorticity dissipation. Moreover, in a related study this analysis has been used to effectively predict the entrainment and detrainment of particles to and from the jet.

Corresponding author address: Dr. A. M. Rogerson, MS #21, Room 304A, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1541.

Email: arogerson@whoi.edu

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