A large-amplitude meander of the shelfbreak front during summer south of New England: Observations from the Shelfbreak PRIMER experiment

Glen Gawarkiewicz, Kenneth H. Brink, Frank Bahr, Robert C. Beardsley, Michael Caruso, James F. Lynch, Ching Sang Chiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

In order to examine spatial and temporal variability of the shelfbreak front during peak stratification, repeated surveys using a towed undulating vehicle (SeaSoar) are used to describe the evolution of shelfbreak frontal structure during 26 July to 1 August 1996 south of New England. Spatial correlation (e-folding) scales for the upper 60 m of the water column were generally between 8 and 15 km for temperature, salinity, and velocity. Temporal correlation scales were about 1 day. The frontal variability was dominated by the passage of a westward propagating meander that had a wavelength of 40 km, a propagation speed of 0.11 m s-1, and an amplitude of 15 km (30 km from crest to trough). Along-front geostrophic velocities (referenced to a shipboard acoustic Doppler current profilers) were as large as 0.45 m s-1, although subject to significant along-front variations. The relative vorticity within the jet was large, with a maximum 0.6 of the local value of the Coriolis parameter. Seaward of the front, a small detached eddy consisting of shelf water was present with a diameter of approximately 15 km. A geostrophic contributions to the velocity field are estimated to be as large as 0.3 m s-1 in regions of sharp curvature within the meander. These observations strongly suggest that during at least some time periods, shelfbreak exchange is nonlinear (large Rossby number) and dominated by features on a horizontal scale of order 10 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C03006 1-16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Volume109
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cross-shelf exchange
  • Frontal dynamics
  • Shelfbreak front

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography

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