Interaction of nonlinear Ekman pumping, near-inertial oscillations and geostrophic turbulence in an idealized coupled model

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
  • 2 Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Canada
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Abstract

A new coupled model is developed to investigate interactions among geostrophic, Ekman and near-inertial (NI) flows. The model couples a time-dependent nonlinear slab Ekman layer with a two-layer shallow water model. Wind stress forces the slab layer and horizontal divergence of slab-layer transport appears as a forcing in the continuity equation of the shallow water model. In one version of the slab model, self-advection of slab-layer momentum is retained and in another it is not. The most obvious impact of this explicit representation of the surface-layer dynamics is in the high-frequency part of the flow. For example, near-inertial oscillations are significantly stronger when self-advection of slab-layer momentum is retained, this being true both for the slab-layer flow itself and for the interior flow that it excites. In addition, retaining the self-advection terms leads to a new instability, which causes growth of slab-layer near-inertial oscillations in regions of anticyclonic forcing and decay in regions of cyclonic forcing. In contrast to inertial instability, it is the sign of the forcing, not that of the underlying vorticity that determines stability. High-passed surface pressure fields are also examined and show the surface signature of unbalanced flow to differ substantially depending on whether a slab-layer model is used and, if so, whether self-advection of slab-layer momentum is retained.

Corresponding author address: Yanxu Chen, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke West, Montreal, Canada H3A 0B9. E-mail: yanxu.chen@mail.mcgill.ca

Abstract

A new coupled model is developed to investigate interactions among geostrophic, Ekman and near-inertial (NI) flows. The model couples a time-dependent nonlinear slab Ekman layer with a two-layer shallow water model. Wind stress forces the slab layer and horizontal divergence of slab-layer transport appears as a forcing in the continuity equation of the shallow water model. In one version of the slab model, self-advection of slab-layer momentum is retained and in another it is not. The most obvious impact of this explicit representation of the surface-layer dynamics is in the high-frequency part of the flow. For example, near-inertial oscillations are significantly stronger when self-advection of slab-layer momentum is retained, this being true both for the slab-layer flow itself and for the interior flow that it excites. In addition, retaining the self-advection terms leads to a new instability, which causes growth of slab-layer near-inertial oscillations in regions of anticyclonic forcing and decay in regions of cyclonic forcing. In contrast to inertial instability, it is the sign of the forcing, not that of the underlying vorticity that determines stability. High-passed surface pressure fields are also examined and show the surface signature of unbalanced flow to differ substantially depending on whether a slab-layer model is used and, if so, whether self-advection of slab-layer momentum is retained.

Corresponding author address: Yanxu Chen, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke West, Montreal, Canada H3A 0B9. E-mail: yanxu.chen@mail.mcgill.ca
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