Role of eddy forcing in the dynamics of multiple zonal jets in a model of the North Atlantic

Igor Kamenkovich, Pavel Berloff, Joseph Pedlosky

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34 Scopus citations


Multiple zonal jets are observed in satellite data-based estimates of oceanic velocities, float measurements, and high-resolution numerical simulations of the ocean circulation. This study makes a step toward understanding the dynamics of these jets in the real ocean by analyzing the vertical structure and dynamical balances within multiple zonal jets simulated in an eddy-resolving primitive equation model of the North Atlantic. In particular, the authors focus on the role of eddy flux convergences ("eddy forcing") in supporting the buoyancy and relative/potential vorticity (PV) anomalies associated with the jets. The results suggest a central role of baroclinic eddies in the barotropic and baroclinic dynamics of the jets, and significant differences in the effects of eddy forcing between the subtropical and subpolar gyres. Additionally, diabatic potential vorticity sources and sinks, associated with vertical diffusion, are shown to play an important role in supporting the potential vorticity anomalies. The resulting potential vorticity profile does not resemble a "PV staircase" - a distinct meridional structure observed in some idealized studies of geostrophic turbulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1361-1379
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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