TERRAPUB Journal of Oceanography

Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 56 (No. 2), pp. 117-130, 2000

Density Current Descending along Continental Slope and the Associated Deep Water Formation: Two-Dimensional Numerical Experiments with a Nonhydrostatic Model

Kiyoshi Tanaka* and Kazunori Akitomo

Department of Geophysics, Division of Earth and Planetary Science, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan

(Received 4 November 1998; in revised form 31 May 1999; accepted 1 June 1999)

Abstract: Numerical experiments with a two-dimensional nonhydrostatic ocean model have been carried out to investigate the dynamical process of descending density current on a continental slope. The associated deep water formation has been also examined by tracking labeled particles. The descending flow along the continental slope occurs in the bottom Ekman layer. The net pressure gradient determining the volume transport consists of not only the pressure gradient due to density deviation but also the surface pressure gradient due to the depth-mean alongshore flow. Since these constituents have the opposite signs and strengthen each other, the oscillation with an alternation of intense up- and downslope flows appears around the shelf break. This temporal variation of the flow field causes the effective mixing on the slope between descending shelf and interior waters and forms the deep water as a mixture of them at a ratio of about 1:3. The present result is applied to the slope current around Antarctica, using velocity and density fields calculated by an ocean general circulation model. The Ekman volume transport is estimated at 0.97 Sv (1 Sv = 106m3s-1) in the Weddell Sea, 0.35 Sv in the Ross Sea, and 1.8 Sv in total. About 70% of them is attributed to the depth-mean alongshore flow, such as the East Wind Drift and the Weddell Gyre driven by the wind. This suggests that the pressure gradient due to other factors than density deviation may play an important role in the deep and bottom water formation in the actual oceans.

*Corresponding author E-mail: tanaka@kugi.kyoto-u.ac.jp

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