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by dynbio — last modified Jun 30, 2011 04:28 PM

Effect of the wind on the shelf dynamics: Formation of a secondary upwelling along the continental margin


Rossi, V., Morel, Y. and V. Garçon,

Ocean Modelling, Vol. 31 (3-4), pp.51-79, doi:10.1016/j.ocemod.2009.10.002


In this paper, the authors study the influence of the wind on the dynamics of the continental shelf and margin, in particular the formation of a secondary upwelling (or downwelling) front along the shelf break.

Observations during the MOUTON2007 campaign at sea along the Portuguese coast in summer 2007 reveal the presence of several upwelling fronts, one being located near the shelf break. All upwellings are characterized by deep cold waters close to or reaching the surface and with high chlorophyll concentrations. Simplified numerical models are built in order to study a possible physical mechanism behind this observation. First, a simple shallow water model with three distinct layers is used to study the formation of secondary upwelling fronts. We show that the physical mechanism behind this process is associated with onshore transport of high potential vorticity anomalies of the shelf for upwelling favorable conditions. Sensitivity studies to bottom friction, shelf width, continental slope steepness, shelf “length” are analysed in terms of potential vorticity dynamics. In particular bottom friction is analyzed in detail and we find that, even though bottom friction limits the barotropic velocity field, it enhances the cross-shore circulation, so that no steady state is possible when stratification is taken into account. Bottom friction accelerates the onshore advection of high potential vorticity, but also drastically reduces its amplitude because of diabatic effects. The net effect of bottom friction is to reduce the secondary upwelling development. Based on similar mechanisms, previous results are then extended to downwelling favorable conditions. Finally a more realistic configuration, with bottom topography, wind forcing and stratification set up from observations, is then developed and the results confronted to the observations. Simulations overestimate the velocity amplitude but exhibit good agreement in terms of density ranges brought over the shelf and general isopycnal patterns.

The application and extension of the results to more general oceanic regions is discussed and we conclude on the influence of such process on the dynamics of wind driven circulation over a shelf.


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