Interactions between barotropic tides and mesoscale processes in deep ocean and shelf regions


The interactions between barotropic tides and mesoscale processes were studied using the results of a numerical model in which tidal forcing was turned on and off. The research area covered part of the East Atlantic Ocean, a steep continental slope, and the European Northwest Shelf. Tides affected the baroclinic fields at much smaller spatial scales than the barotropic tidal scales. Changes in the horizontal patterns of the M2 and M4 tidal constituents provided information about the two-way interactions between barotropic tides and mesoscale processes. The interaction between the atmosphere and ocean measured by the work done by wind was also affected by the barotropic tidal forcing. Tidal forcing intensified the transient processes and resulted in a substantial transformation of the wave number spectra in the transition areas from the deep ocean to the shelf. Tides flattened the sea-surface height spectra down to ~ k−2.5 power law, thus reflecting the large contribution of the processes in the high-frequency range compared to quasi-geostrophic motion. The spectra along sections parallel or normal to the continental slope differ from each other, which indicates that mesoscale turbulence was not isotropic. An analysis of the vorticity spectra showed that the flattening was mostly due to internal tides. Compared with the deep ocean, no substantial scale selectivity was observed on the shelf area. Particle tracking showed that the lengths of the Lagrangian trajectories increased by approximately 40% if the barotropic tidal forcing was activated, which contributed to changed mixing properties. The ratio between the horizontal and vertical scales of motion varied regionally depending on whether barotropic tidal forcing was included. The overall conclusion is that the barotropic tides affect substantially the diapycnal mixing.
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