Coastal Wind-Driven Circulation in the Vicinity of a Bank. Part I: Modeling Flow over Idealized Symmetric Banks

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  • This study examines how coastal banks influence wind-driven circulation along stratified continental shelves. Numerical experiments are conducted for idealized symmetric banks; the standard bank (200 km long and 50 km wide) has dimensions similar to the Heceta Bank complex along the Oregon shelf. Model runs are forced with 10 days of steady winds (0.1 Pa); upwelling and downwelling cases are compared. The bank introduces significant alongshelf variability in the currents and density fields. Upwelling-favorable winds create an upwelling front and a baroclinic jet (flowing opposite coastal-trapped wave propagation) that bend around the standard bank, approximately centered on the 90-m isobath. The upwelling jet is strongest over the upstream bank half, where it advects a tongue of dense water over the bank. There is a current reversal shoreward of the main jet at the bank center. Upwelling is most intense over the upstream part of the bank, while there is reduced upwelling and even downwelling over other bank sections. Downwelling-favorable winds create a near-bottom density front and a baroclinic jet (flowing in the direction of coastal-trapped wave propagation) that bend around the standard bank; the jet core moves from the 150-m isobath to the 100-m isobath and back over the bank. The downwelling jet is slowest and widest over the bank; there are no current reversals. Results over the bank are more similar to 2D results (that preclude alongshelf variability) than in the upwelling case. Downwelling is weakened over the bank. The density field evolution over the bank is fundamentally different from the upwelling case. Most model results for banks with different dimensions are qualitatively similar to the standard run. The exceptions are banks having a radius of curvature smaller than the inertial radius; the main jet remains detached from the coast far downstream from these banks. The lowest-order across-stream momentum balance indicates that the depth-averaged flow is geostrophic. Advection, ageostrophic pressure gradients, wind stress, and bottom stress are all important in the depth-averaged alongstream momentum balance over the bank. There is considerable variability in alongstream momentum balances over different bank sections. Across-shelf and alongshelf advection both change the density field over the bank. Barotropic potential vorticity is not conserved, but the tendency for relative vorticity changes and depth changes to partially counter each other results in differences between the upwelling and downwelling jet paths over the bank. Only certain areas of the bank have significant vertical velocities. In these areas of active upwelling and downwelling, vertical velocities at the top of the bottom boundary layer are due to either the jet crossing isobaths or bottom Ekman pumping
  • Keywords: Topographic effects, Coastlines, Ocean circulation, Coastal flows, Wind stress
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  • Whitney, Michael M., J. S. Allen, 2009: Coastal Wind-Driven Circulation in the Vicinity of a Bank. Part I: Modeling Flow over Idealized Symmetric Banks. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 39, 1273–1297.
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  • 39
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  • 6
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  • The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the Coastal Ocean Processes (CoOP) program through the COAST project funded by NSF Grant OCE-9907854. Support for manuscript preparation and publishing was provided by University of Connecticut startup funds.
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