Vortex dipole formation by baroclinic instability of boundary currents

L. Cherubin, X. Carton, D. G. Dritschel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In situ data of the Mediterranean Water undercurrents and eddies south of Portugal indicate that the undercurrents have a tubelike structure in potential vorticity and that dipole formation can occur when the lower undercurrent extends seaward below an offshore upper countercurrent. A two-layer quasigeostrophic model is used to determine the dynamical conditions under which dipole formation is possible. With piecewise-constant potential vorticity, the flow exhibits two linear modes of instability comparable to those found in the Phillips model with topography. Weakly nonlinear analysis and fully nonlinear simulations of the flow evolution agree on the regimes of either finite-amplitude perturbation saturation, corresponding to filamentation, or amplification, corresponding to vortex or dipole formation. This latter regime is more specifically studied: vortex dipole formation and ejection from the coast is obtained for long waves, with opposite-signed but similar amplitude layer potential vorticities. A simple point vortex model reproduces this phenomenon under the same conditions. It is then shown that dipole formation occurs for minimal wave dispersion, and hence for weak horizontal velocity shears. As observed at sea, dipoles are formed when the lower potential vorticity core extends seaward below a countercurrent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1677
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Volume37
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007

Keywords

  • MEDITERRANEAN OUTFLOW
  • CONTOUR DYNAMICS
  • EDDY GENERATION
  • SALT LENS
  • MEDDY
  • WATER
  • UNDERCURRENT
  • CADIZ
  • GULF
  • STABILITY

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