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The influence of bottom topography on the decay of modeled Agulhas rings

De Steur, L. and Van Leeuwen, P. J. (2009) The influence of bottom topography on the decay of modeled Agulhas rings. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers , 56 (4). 471-494 . ISSN 0967-0637

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2008.11.009


The influence of a large meridional submarine ridge on the decay of Agulhas rings is investigated with a 1 and 2-layer setup of the isopycnic primitive-equation ocean model MICOM. In the single-layer case we show that the SSH decay of the ring is primarily governed by bottom friction and secondly by the radiation of Rossby waves. When a topographic ridge is present, the effect of the ridge on SSH decay and loss of tracer from the ring is negligible. However, the barotropic ring cannot pass the ridge due to energy and vorticity constraints. In the case of a two-layer ring the initial SSH decay is governed by a mixed barotropic–baroclinic instability of the ring. Again, radiation of barotropic Rossby waves is present. When the ring passes the topographic ridge, it shows a small but significant stagnation of SSH decay, agreeing with satellite altimetry observations. This is found to be due to a reduction of the growth rate of the m = 2 instability, to conversions of kinetic energy to the upper layer, and to a decrease in Rossby-wave radiation. The energy transfer is related to the fact that coherent structures in the lower layer cannot pass the steep ridge due to energy constraints. Furthermore, the loss of tracer from the ring through filamentation is less than for a ring moving over a flat bottom, related to a decrease in propagation speed of the ring. We conclude that ridges like the Walvis Ridge tend to stabilize a multi-layer ring and reduce its decay.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:1763
Uncontrolled Keywords:vorticity constraints, topographic ridge, barotropic-baroclinic instability, mericlional submarine ridge, agulhas rings, satellite altimetry, rossby-wave radiation, isopycnic primitive-equation

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