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Comment on "Why western boundary currents are diffusive: a link between bottom pressure torque and bolus velocity" by C. Eden and D. Olbers

By Richard John Greatbatch and Chris W. Hughes


Eden and Olbers have discussed the relationship between bottom pressure torque and bolus velocity in the western boundary current using the vertically truncated BARBI model approach. Here we revisit this issue using the much simpler residual mean framework. The central role played by a density equation that is linearised about a state of rest is discussed, as well as mechanisms required to maintain the baroclinicity of the western boundary current. We conclude that in the framework being considered by Eden and Olbers, frictional processes must play an important role in the western boundary current dynamics, otherwise the baroclinicity of the current is completely removed by the cross-front mixing effect of the eddies. We also derive the form of the Stommel equation obtained by Eden and Olbers in a manner which clarifies the approximations made by these authors. We argue that for their analysis to be valid, the flow must be concentrated in a shallow layer compared to the ocean depth, there must be no density structure at the sea floor, and any overturning circulation, whether directly wind-driven or as a part of the global thermohaline circulation, must be much smaller than the western boundary current transpor

Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.ocemod.2010.12.001
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