One-dimensional baroclinically unstable waves on the Gulf Stream potential vorticity gradient near Cape Hatteras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


Application of linear baroclinic instability theory to the observed distributions of velocity, stratification, and potential vorticity in the Gulf Stream near 74° W is successful in predicting the time and length scales of the most rapidly growing disturbances. A continuously-stratified, one-dimensional model with realistic bottom slope predicts propagation speeds of 10-50 cm s-1 associated with two regimes of rapid temporal growth centered at periods of 28 days and 5-7 days. This prediction is consistent with observations of the propagation and growth of Gulf Stream meanders derived from inverted echo sounder measurements in this region. The instability model also predicts that for realistic bottom slopes the baroclinic energy transfer should be weakly negative (eddy-to-mean) in deep water, but for low-frequency waves should change to significant positive (mean-to-eddy) transfer above depths of ∼1500 m, consistent with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-350
Number of pages28
JournalDynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 1988
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

Cite this