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A Study of the Balance of Horizontal Momentum in a Vertical Shearing Current

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  • 1 Departament de Física, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
  • | 2 Southampton Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom
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Abstract

Horizontal current and density data fields are analyzed in order to validate, from an experimental point of view, the contribution of the advective and Coriolis accelerations and the hydrostatic pressure gradient term to the balance of horizontal momentum. The relative importance of the vertical advection of horizontal velocity in this balance is estimated by solving the quasigeostrophic (QG) omega equation. The analysis of the balance of horizontal momentum is carried out using data from three consecutive high-resolution samplings of the Atlantic jet (AJ) and western Alboran gyre (WAG) on the eastern side of the Strait of Gibraltar.

The horizontal velocity reached maximum values of 1.30 m s−1 in the AJ at the surface. The ageostrophic velocity field reaches maximum absolute values of 30 cm s−1 at the surface, thus confirming the supergeostrophic nature of the AJ. At the surface the pressure gradient term reaches absolute values of 8–10 (×10−5 m s−2), the Coriolis acceleration 10–12 (×10−5 m s−2), and the advective horizontal acceleration 3 × 10−5 m s−2. The vertical advection of horizontal velocity by the QG vertical velocity at 100 m is one order of magnitude smaller [O(10−6 m s−2)].

The geostrophic imbalance (difference between the pressure gradient term and the Coriolis acceleration) reaches 5 × 10−5 m s−2 at the surface. The gradient imbalance (defined as the difference between the pressure gradient term and the Coriolis plus advective accelerations) is smaller than the geostrophic imbalance (being of order 2.5 × 10−5 m s−2) making gradient balance the best estimate of the balance of horizontal momentum given the characteristics (synopticity and experimental errors) of the analyzed dataset.

The gradient imbalance is not uniform in the horizontal but rather is larger in the AJ than in the WAG. From this result it is inferred that the AJ current experiences larger variations (larger local acceleration) than the WAG current.

* Permanent affiliation: Department of Meteorology, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Robert L. Haney, Department of Meteorology, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA 93943-5114.

Email: haneyrl@met.nps.navy.mil

Abstract

Horizontal current and density data fields are analyzed in order to validate, from an experimental point of view, the contribution of the advective and Coriolis accelerations and the hydrostatic pressure gradient term to the balance of horizontal momentum. The relative importance of the vertical advection of horizontal velocity in this balance is estimated by solving the quasigeostrophic (QG) omega equation. The analysis of the balance of horizontal momentum is carried out using data from three consecutive high-resolution samplings of the Atlantic jet (AJ) and western Alboran gyre (WAG) on the eastern side of the Strait of Gibraltar.

The horizontal velocity reached maximum values of 1.30 m s−1 in the AJ at the surface. The ageostrophic velocity field reaches maximum absolute values of 30 cm s−1 at the surface, thus confirming the supergeostrophic nature of the AJ. At the surface the pressure gradient term reaches absolute values of 8–10 (×10−5 m s−2), the Coriolis acceleration 10–12 (×10−5 m s−2), and the advective horizontal acceleration 3 × 10−5 m s−2. The vertical advection of horizontal velocity by the QG vertical velocity at 100 m is one order of magnitude smaller [O(10−6 m s−2)].

The geostrophic imbalance (difference between the pressure gradient term and the Coriolis acceleration) reaches 5 × 10−5 m s−2 at the surface. The gradient imbalance (defined as the difference between the pressure gradient term and the Coriolis plus advective accelerations) is smaller than the geostrophic imbalance (being of order 2.5 × 10−5 m s−2) making gradient balance the best estimate of the balance of horizontal momentum given the characteristics (synopticity and experimental errors) of the analyzed dataset.

The gradient imbalance is not uniform in the horizontal but rather is larger in the AJ than in the WAG. From this result it is inferred that the AJ current experiences larger variations (larger local acceleration) than the WAG current.

* Permanent affiliation: Department of Meteorology, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.

Corresponding author address: Prof. Robert L. Haney, Department of Meteorology, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA 93943-5114.

Email: haneyrl@met.nps.navy.mil

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