On the transient adjustment of a mid-latitude abyssal ocean basin with realistic geometry: The constant depth limit

Enrique N. Curchitser, Dale B. Haidvogel, Mohamed Iskandarani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The early stages in the adjustment of a mid-latitude abyssal basin with realistic geometry are studied using an inverted one and one-half layer model of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as a natural test basin. The model is forced with a localized sidewall mass source and a compensating distributed mass sink. A flat bottom basin is investigated for comparison with existing theories on abyssal gyral spin-up, and as a precursor to a study with realistic topography. As in existing theories, the early adjustment is dominated by sub-inertial Kelvin and Rossby waves. Obstacles and the varying coastal geometry do not impede the passage of the Kelvin wave, though the circuit time of the main Kelvin wave signal is reduced by an aggregate 6% for the abyssal Eastern Mediterranean basin. The scattering of the Kelvin wave due to small-scale variations in the coastline is also shown not to be significant to the adjustment. The relatively short period of time needed to reach a statistical steady state is attributed to western boundary current formation in response to local Kelvin wave dynamics. Upon cessation of the sidewall forcing, sub-inertial motion controls the spin-down adjustment with basin-scale Rossby waves becoming the most pronounced feature of the flow. Two dynamical issues of particular interest emerge in these simulations: the retardation of Kelvin wave propagation around the abyssal basin and the roles of detrainment and sidewall forcing in the interior vorticity balance. An idealized simulation using an elliptical basin is used to illustrate that the mechanism for Kelvin wave retardation is a geometrically induced dispersion due to large-scale variations in the coastline. A dynamical analysis of the interior circulation shows that detrainment alone does not develop a Sverdrup response. Both the localized sidewall injection and the detrainment are needed to describe the interior dynamics, with both poleward and equatorward flows developing during the adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-188
Number of pages42
JournalDynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Constant depth limit
  • Mid-latitude abyssal ocean basin
  • Realistic geometry
  • Transient adjustment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science


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