The formation of nonzonal jets over sloped topography

Coherent jets are ubiquitous features of the ocean’s circulation, and their characteristics, such as orientation and energetics, may be influenced by topography. In this study, the authors introduce a large-scale, topographic slope with an arbitrary orientation into quasigeostrophic, doubly periodic, barotropic and baroclinic systems. In both systems, the flow organizes itself into coherent tilted nonzonal jets that are aligned perpendicular to the barotropic potential vorticity (PV) gradient. In the two-layer system, the upper layer, the lower layer, and the barotropic PV gradients all have different orientations and therefore the jets cross the layer-wise PV gradients. The fact that the jets cross layer-wise PV gradients and the requirement of conservation of PV for fluid parcels together results in the drift of the tilted jets across the domain. Like their zonal counterparts, the tilted jets exhibit strong transport anisotropy. The dynamical response to jet deflection is very strong in the two-layer baroclinic case, with eddy energy production increasing by orders of magnitude as the topographic slope becomes more zonal. This increase in eddy energy is also reflected in an increase in jet spacing and a reduction in strength of the across-jet transport barriers, shown using an effective diffusivity diagnostic. The dynamics identified here, while formally valid within the constraints of quasigeostrophic scalings, provide important insight into the sensitive relationship between flow orientation and flow stability in regions with broad topographic slopes.


Publication status:
Authors: Boland, Emma J. D., Thompson, Andrew F., Shuckburgh, Emily, Haynes, Peter H.

On this site: Emma Boland, Emily Shuckburgh
1 January, 2012
Journal of Physical Oceanography / 42
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):