Topographic Rossby Waves in the Abyssal South China Sea

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  • 1 Department of Ocean Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China
  • 2 State Key Laboratory of Internet of Things for Smart City and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Macau, and Center for Ocean Research in Hongkong and Macau, Macau, China
  • 3 College of Marine Ecology and Environment, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai, and Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory, Zhuhai, China
  • 4 Department of Ocean Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China
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Abstract

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) in the abyssal South China Sea (SCS) are investigated using observations and high-resolution numerical simulations. These energetic waves can account for over 40% of the kinetic energy (KE) variability in the deep western boundary current and seamount region in the central SCS. This proportion can even reach 70% over slopes in the northern and southern SCS. The TRW-induced currents exhibit columnar (i.e., in-phase) structure in which the speed increases downward. Wave properties such as the period (5–60 days), wavelength (100–500 km), and vertical trapping scale (102–103 m) vary significantly depending on environmental parameters of the SCS. The TRW energy propagates along steep topography with phase propagation offshore. TRWs with high frequencies exhibit a stronger climbing effect than low-frequency ones and hence can move further upslope. For TRWs with a certain frequency, the wavelength and trapping scale are dominated by the topographic beta, whereas the group velocity is more sensitive to the internal Rossby deformation radius. Background circulation with horizontal shear can change the wavelength and direction of TRWs if the flow velocity is comparable to the group velocity, particularly in the central, southern, and eastern SCS. A case study suggests two possible energy sources for TRWs: mesoscale perturbation in the upper layer and large-scale background circulation in the deep layer. The former provides KE by pressure work, whereas the latter transfers the available potential energy (APE) through baroclinic instability.

Corresponding author: Zhiqiang Liu, liuzq@sustech.edu.cn

Abstract

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) in the abyssal South China Sea (SCS) are investigated using observations and high-resolution numerical simulations. These energetic waves can account for over 40% of the kinetic energy (KE) variability in the deep western boundary current and seamount region in the central SCS. This proportion can even reach 70% over slopes in the northern and southern SCS. The TRW-induced currents exhibit columnar (i.e., in-phase) structure in which the speed increases downward. Wave properties such as the period (5–60 days), wavelength (100–500 km), and vertical trapping scale (102–103 m) vary significantly depending on environmental parameters of the SCS. The TRW energy propagates along steep topography with phase propagation offshore. TRWs with high frequencies exhibit a stronger climbing effect than low-frequency ones and hence can move further upslope. For TRWs with a certain frequency, the wavelength and trapping scale are dominated by the topographic beta, whereas the group velocity is more sensitive to the internal Rossby deformation radius. Background circulation with horizontal shear can change the wavelength and direction of TRWs if the flow velocity is comparable to the group velocity, particularly in the central, southern, and eastern SCS. A case study suggests two possible energy sources for TRWs: mesoscale perturbation in the upper layer and large-scale background circulation in the deep layer. The former provides KE by pressure work, whereas the latter transfers the available potential energy (APE) through baroclinic instability.

Corresponding author: Zhiqiang Liu, liuzq@sustech.edu.cn
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