Flow and seasonality in the Hebridean slope current

Souza, Alejandro J.; Simpson, John H.; Harikrishnan, M.; Malarkey, Jonathan. 2001 Flow and seasonality in the Hebridean slope current. Oceanologica Acta, 24 (Suppl. 1). S63-S76.

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The intensity, structure and variability of the slope current have been determined from 16 months of observations with Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP) and conventional current meters on a cross-slope section at the Hebridean shelf edge during the Shelf Edge Study (SES) programme. After removal of the tidal signals, the mean flow over the upper slope is found to be closely parallel to the topography with speeds of ≈ 20 cm·s–1. The flow extends down to a depth of 500 m and is predominantly barotropic, especially in winter when the flow is practically uniform between 350 m and the surface. In summer, there is a significant baroclinic component with a pronounced maximum in current at a depth of about 200 m but more than 80% of the kinetic energy is in the barotropic component. Flow in the core of the current is highly persistent with the Neumann’s steadiness St > 0.8 in summer. In winter the flow is generally more energetic and variable and extends onto the adjacent shelf. The cross-slope profile of sea surface elevation, computed from the mean barotropic currents, shows a consistent relation to seabed topography through the seasonal cycle. Long-term averages of the cross-slope components are generally small (≈ 2 cm·s–1) with some indication of persistent down-slope flow in the bottom Ekman layer. Measurements with shipboard ADCP on sections at intervals along the slope show a high degree of continuity in the structure of the flow. The core of the flow appears to be related to a weak positive salinity anomaly and a depression of the 9.5 °C isotherm near the shelf, but there is no strong correlation between the core of the slope-current and the core of the salinity anomaly. It is proposed that this may be due to differences in the cross-stream diffusion of salt and momentum which have different boundary conditions at the slope. The observed cross-stream structure of the current supports the hypothesis that JEBAR is the principal forcing mechanism but the result cannot be regarded as conclusive since a uniform potential vorticity model of the flow produces a similar cross-sectional structure of the current.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: POL Programmes > Modelling and observation systems for shelf seas
POL Programmes
ISSN: 0399-1784
Additional Keywords: Shelf edge dynamics JEBAR Eckman drainage
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Date made live: 18 Jul 2013 09:35 +0 (UTC)

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