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An Idealized Model Study of Eddy Energetics in the Western Boundary “Graveyard”

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  • 1 Key Laboratory of Physical Oceanography and Frontiers Science Center for Deep Ocean Multispheres and Earth System, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China
  • | 2 College of Oceanography, Hohai University, Nanjing, China
  • | 3 Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
  • | 4 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Institute of Atmospheric Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • | 5 Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • | 6 CMA-FDU Joint Laboratory of Marine Meteorology, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
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Abstract

Recent studies show that the western boundary acts as a “graveyard” for westward-propagating ocean eddies. However, how the eddy energy incident on the western boundary is dissipated remains unclear. Here we investigate the energetics of eddy–western boundary interaction using an idealized MIT ocean circulation model with a spatially variable grid resolution. Four types of model experiments are conducted: 1) single eddy cases, 2) a sea of random eddies, 3) with a smooth topography, and 4) with a rough topography. We find significant dissipation of incident eddy energy at the western boundary, regardless of whether the model topography at the western boundary is smooth or rough. However, in the presence of rough topography, not only the eddy energy dissipation rate is enhanced, but more importantly, the leading process for removing eddy energy in the model switches from bottom frictional drag as in the case of smooth topography to viscous dissipation in the ocean interior above the rough topography. Further analysis shows that the enhanced eddy energy dissipation in the experiment with rough topography is associated with greater anticyclonic, ageostrophic instability (AAI), possibly as a result of lee wave generation and nonpropagating form drag effect.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Xiaoming Zhai, xiaoming.zhai@uea.ac.uk

Abstract

Recent studies show that the western boundary acts as a “graveyard” for westward-propagating ocean eddies. However, how the eddy energy incident on the western boundary is dissipated remains unclear. Here we investigate the energetics of eddy–western boundary interaction using an idealized MIT ocean circulation model with a spatially variable grid resolution. Four types of model experiments are conducted: 1) single eddy cases, 2) a sea of random eddies, 3) with a smooth topography, and 4) with a rough topography. We find significant dissipation of incident eddy energy at the western boundary, regardless of whether the model topography at the western boundary is smooth or rough. However, in the presence of rough topography, not only the eddy energy dissipation rate is enhanced, but more importantly, the leading process for removing eddy energy in the model switches from bottom frictional drag as in the case of smooth topography to viscous dissipation in the ocean interior above the rough topography. Further analysis shows that the enhanced eddy energy dissipation in the experiment with rough topography is associated with greater anticyclonic, ageostrophic instability (AAI), possibly as a result of lee wave generation and nonpropagating form drag effect.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Xiaoming Zhai, xiaoming.zhai@uea.ac.uk
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