The role of nonhydrostatic dynamics in controlling development of a surface ocean front
Haine, T. and Williams, P. D. (2002) The role of nonhydrostatic dynamics in controlling development of a surface ocean front. Ocean modelling, 4 (2). pp. 121-135. ISSN 1463-5003
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/S1463-5003(01)00014-2
Numerical studies of surface ocean fronts forced by inhomogeneous buoyancy loss show nonhydrostatic convective plumes coexisting with baroclinic eddies. The character of the vertical overturning depends sensitively on the treatment of the vertical momentum equation in the model. It is less well known how the frontal evolution over scales of O(10 km) is affected by these dynamics. Here, we compare highly resolved numerical experiments using nonhydrostatic and hydrostatic models and the convective-adjustment parametrization. The impact of nonhydrostatic processes on average cross-frontal transfer is weak compared to the effect of the O(1 km) scale baroclinic motions. For water-mass distribution and formation rate nonhydrostatic dynamics have similar influence to the baroclinic eddies although adequate resolution of the gradients in forcing fluxes is more important. The overall implication is that including nonhydrostatic surface frontal dynamics in ocean general circulation models will have only a minor effect on scales of O(1 km) and greater.