The formation of nonzonal jets over sloped topography

Boland, Emma J. D. ORCID:; Thompson, Andrew F.; Shuckburgh, Emily ORCID:; Haynes, Peter H.. 2012 The formation of nonzonal jets over sloped topography. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 42 (10). 1635-1651.

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Coherent jets are ubiquitous features of the ocean’s circulation, and their characteristics, such as orientation and energetics, may be influenced by topography. In this study, the authors introduce a large-scale, topographic slope with an arbitrary orientation into quasigeostrophic, doubly periodic, barotropic and baroclinic systems. In both systems, the flow organizes itself into coherent tilted nonzonal jets that are aligned perpendicular to the barotropic potential vorticity (PV) gradient. In the two-layer system, the upper layer, the lower layer, and the barotropic PV gradients all have different orientations and therefore the jets cross the layer-wise PV gradients. The fact that the jets cross layer-wise PV gradients and the requirement of conservation of PV for fluid parcels together results in the drift of the tilted jets across the domain. Like their zonal counterparts, the tilted jets exhibit strong transport anisotropy. The dynamical response to jet deflection is very strong in the two-layer baroclinic case, with eddy energy production increasing by orders of magnitude as the topographic slope becomes more zonal. This increase in eddy energy is also reflected in an increase in jet spacing and a reduction in strength of the across-jet transport barriers, shown using an effective diffusivity diagnostic. The dynamics identified here, while formally valid within the constraints of quasigeostrophic scalings, provide important insight into the sensitive relationship between flow orientation and flow stability in regions with broad topographic slopes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BAS Programmes > Polar Science for Planet Earth (2009 - ) > Polar Oceans
ISSN: 0022-3670
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: © Copyright 2012 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Date made live: 26 Nov 2012 12:13 +0 (UTC)

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