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- Is the meander growth in the Brazil Current system off Southeast Brazil due to baroclinic instability?
- Universidade de São Paulo (USP)
- Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP)
- Temporally-growing frontal meandering and occasional eddy-shedding is observed in the Brazil Current (BC) as it flows adjacent to the Brazilian Coast. No study of the dynamics of this phenomenon has been conducted to date in the region between 22 degrees S and 25 degrees S. Within this latitude range, the flow over the intermediate continental slope is marked by a current inversion at a depth that is associated with the Intermediate Western Boundary Current (IWBC). A time series analysis of 10-current-meter mooring data was used to describe a mean vertical profile for the BC-IWBC jet and a typical meander vertical structure. The latter was obtained by an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis that showed a single mode explaining 82% of the total variance. This mode structure decayed sharply with depth, revealing that the meandering is much more vigorous within the BC domain than it is in the IWBC region. As the spectral analysis of the mode amplitude time series revealed no significant periods, we searched for dominant wavelengths. This search was done via a spatial EOF analysis on 51 thermal front patterns derived from digitized AVHRR images. Four modes were statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. Modes 3 and 4, which together explained 18% of the total variance, are associated with 266 and 338-km vorticity waves, respectively. With this new information derived from the data, the [Johns, W.E., 1988. One-dimensional baroclinically unstable waves on the Gulf Stream potential vorticity gradient near Cape Hatteras. Dyn. Atmos. Oceans 11, 323-350] one-dimensional quasi-geostrophic model was applied to the interpolated mean BC-IWBC jet. The results indicated that the BC system is indeed baroclinically unstable and that the wavelengths depicted in the thermal front analysis are associated with the most unstable waves produced by the model. Growth rates were about 0.06 (0.05) days(-1) for the 266-km (338-km) wave. Moreover, phase speeds for these waves were low compared to the surface BC velocity and may account for remarks in the literature about growing standing or stationary meanders off southeast Brazil. The theoretical vertical structure modes associated with these waves resembled very closely to the one obtained for the current-meter mooring EOF analysis. We interpret this agreement as a confirmation that baroclinic instability is an important mechanism in meander growth in the BC system. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans. Amsterdam: Elsevier B.V., v. 45, n. 3-4, p. 187-207, 2008.
- Elsevier B.V.
- Brazil Current
- Intermediate Western Boundary Current
- baroclinic instability
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