TERRAPUB Journal of Oceanography

Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 66 (No. 1), pp. 41-60, 2010

Effects of Mass Source/Sink at the Western Boundary on the Wind-Driven Gyres: Implications for the Ventilation of the North Pacific Intermediate Layer through Convection in the Okhotsk Sea and Tidal Mixing at the Kuril Straits

Tomohiro Nakamura1*, Takahiro Toyoda2, Yoichi Ishikawa3 and Toshiyuki Awaji3

1Pan-Okhotsk Research Center, Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0819, Japan
2Ocean Climate Change Research Program, Research Institute for Global Change, JAMSTEC, Yokohama 236-0001, Japan
3Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan

(Received 26 July 2008; in revised form 21 August 2009; accepted 21 August 2009)

Abstract: A steady quasi-geostrophic 2.5-layer model, forced by both Ekman pumping and a mass source/sink situated at the western boundary has been constructed to investigate the effect of diapycnal transport due to convection in the Okhotsk Sea and tidal mixing at the Kuril Straits on the intermediate layer in the North Pacific. The model illustrates a combined effect of the wind-driven and mass-driven circulations. First, net mass input induces a "barotropic" mode inter-gyre flow along the western boundary through the dynamical influence of Kelvin waves. This flow creates characteristic curves (geostrophic contours) that facilitate inter-gyre communication through the western boundary layer from the location of the mass source to the subtropical gyre. Due to the effect of wind-driven circulation, the offshore part turns eastward into the interior, encircles the outer rim of the region (which would otherwise be the pool region in the absence of mass input), and then encounters the western boundary. Eventually, the water fed into the lower layer flows mostly along this path and later flows away to the equatorial region. Conversely, in the upper layer, water is fed from the equator to the subtropics, and to the subpolar interior region through the western boundary current. The water then circulates along the outer rim and is absorbed into the mass sink. The model is controlled mainly by three nondimensional parameters: (1) the ratio of net mass input rate to the maximum Sverdrup transport (Q/TSvmax), which affects the inter-gyre communication by altering the paths of geostrophic contours, (2) the ratio of a mass input rate into the lower layer to that in total (Q2/Q), which controls the vertical structure of the inter-gyre flow, and (3) the measure of the wind forcing effect relative to the β effect, which determines the horizontal extent of the area influenced by the mass input. The other parameter regimes with respect to Q/TSvmax and Q2/Q are also presented.

*Corresponding author E-mail: nakamura@lowtem.hokudai.ac.jp

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