A Greenland Sea perspective on the dynamics of postconvective eddies

Oliver, K. I. C.; Eldevik, T.; Stevens, D. P. and Watson, A. J. (2008). A Greenland Sea perspective on the dynamics of postconvective eddies. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 38(12) pp. 2755–2771.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1175/2008JPO3844.1

URL: http://researchpages.net/media/resources/2008/09/0...

Abstract

Open ocean deep convection contributes to the formation of the dense waters that fill the global deep ocean. The dynamics of post–convective vor- tices are key to understanding the role of convection in ocean circulation. Submesoscale coherent vortices (SCVs) observed in convective regions are likely to be the anticyclonic components of hetons. Hetons are dipoles, con- sisting of a surface cyclone and a weakly stratified subsurface anticyclone, that can be formed by convection. Here, key post-convective processes are investigated using numerical experiments of increasing sophistication, with two primary goals: (1) to understand how the ambient hydrography and to- pography influence the propagation of hetons; (2) to provide a theoretical context for recent observations of SCVs in the Greenland Sea. It is found that the alignment of hetons is controlled by ambient hori- zontal density gradients, and that hetons self-propagate into lighter waters as a result. This provides a mechanism for transporting convected water out of a cyclonic gyre, but the propagation is arrested if the heton meets large amplitude topography. Upon interaction with topography, hetons usually separate, and the surface cyclone returns towards denser water. The anti- cyclone usually remains close to topography and may become trapped for several hundred days. These findings may explain the observed accumula- tion and longevity of SCVs at the Greenland Fracture Zone, on the rim of the Greenland Sea gyre. The separation and sorting of cyclones from an- ticyclones have likely implications for the density and vorticity budgets of convective regions.

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