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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-114
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-114
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 28 Oct 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Barotropic vorticity balance of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre in an eddy-resolving model

Mathieu Le Corre, Jonathan Gula, and Anne-Marie Tréguier Mathieu Le Corre et al.
  • Univ. Brest, CNRS, IRD, Ifremer, Laboratoire d’Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS), IUEM, Brest, France

Abstract. The circulation in the North Atlantic Subpolar gyre is complex and strongly influenced by the topography. The gyre dynamics is traditionally understood as the result of a topographic Sverdrup balance, which corresponds to a first order balance between the planetary vorticity advection, the bottom pressure torque and the wind stress curl. However, this dynamics has been studied mostly with non-eddy-resolving models and a crude representation of the bottom topography. Here we revisit the barotropic vorticity balance of the North Atlantic Subpolar gyre using a high resolution simulation (≈ 2-km) with topography-following vertical coordinates to better represent the mesoscale turbulence and flow-topography interactions. Our findings highlight that, locally, there is a first order balance between the bottom pressure torque and the nonlinear terms, albeit with a high degree of cancellation between each other. However, balances integrated over different regions of the gyre – shelf, slope and interior – still highlight the important role played by nonlinearities and the bottom drag curls. In particular the topographic Sverdrup balance cannot describe the dynamics in the interior of the gyre. The main sources of cyclonic vorticity are the nonlinear terms due to eddies generated along eastern boundary currents and the time-mean nonlinear terms from the Northwest Corner. Our results suggest that a good representation of the mesoscale activity along with a good positioning of the Northwest corner are two important conditions for a better representation of the circulation in the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre.

Mathieu Le Corre et al.
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Mathieu Le Corre et al.
Data sets

NOAA drifter L. C. Laurindo, A. J.Mariano, and R. Lumpkin https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2017.04.009

ISAS M. Ollitrault and J.-P. Rannou https://doi.org/10.1175/JTECH-D-12-00073.1

Mathieu Le Corre et al.
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Latest update: 20 Nov 2019
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Short summary
The ocean circulation is crucial for the climate and the North Atlantic subpolar gyre is a key component of the meridional heat transport. In this study we use a high resolution simulation with bottom following coordinates to investigate the gyre dynamics. We show that non-linear processes, underestimated in most climate models, control the circulation in the gyre interior. This result contrasts with the classical theory putting forward the wind effects on the large scale circulation.
The ocean circulation is crucial for the climate and the North Atlantic subpolar gyre is a key...
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