Buoyancy Arrest and Shelf–Ocean Exchange Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract When steady flow in a stratified ocean passes between the continental slope and open ocean, its ability to cross isobaths is potentially limited by buoyancy arrest. If the bottom Ekman transport vanishes and there are no interior stresses, then steady linear flow on an f plane must be geostrophic and follow isobaths exactly. The influence of arrest on cross-shelf transport is investigated here to establish 1) whether there are substantial penetration asymmetries between cases with upwelling and downwelling in the bottom boundary layer; 2) over what spatial scales, hence in what parameter regime, buoyancy arrest is important; and 3) the effects of depth-dependent interior flow. The problem is approached using scalings and idealized numerical models. The results show that there is little or no asymmetry introduced by bottom boundary layer behavior. Further, if the stratification is weak or moderate, as measured by a slope Burger number s = ?N/f (where ? is the bottom slope, N is buoyancy frequency, and f is the Coriolis parameter), buoyancy arrest does not exert a strong constraint on cross-isobath exchange.

publication date

  • April 1, 2012