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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Numerical and analytical modelling of oceanic/atmospheric processes Weaver, Andrew John


Two problems in oceanic/atmospheric modelling are examined in this thesis. In the first problem the release of fresh water from a midlatitude estuary to the continental shelf is modelled numerically as a Rossby adjustment problem using a primitive equation model. As the initial salinity front is relaxed, a first baroclinic mode Kelvin wave propagates into the estuary, while along the continental shelf, the disturbance travels in the direction of coastally trapped waves but with a relatively slow propagation speed. When a submarine canyon extends offshore from the estuary, the joint effect of baroclinicity and bottom relief provides forcing for barotropic flow. The disturbance now propagates along the shelf at the first coastally trapped wave mode phase speed, and the shelf circulation is significantly more energetic and barotropic than in the case without the canyon. For both the experiments with and without a canyon an anticyclonic circulation is formed off the mouth of the estuary, generated by the surface outflow and deeper inflow over changing bottom topography. As the deeper inflow encounters shallower depth, the column of fluid is vertically compressed, thereby spinning up anticyclonically due to the conservation of potential vorticity. This feature is in qualitative agreement with the Tully eddy observed off Juan de Fuca Strait. A study of the reverse estuary (where the estuarine water is denser than the oceanic water) shows that this configuration has more potential energy available for conversion to kinetic energy than the normal estuary. Bass Strait may be considered as a possible reverse estuary source for the generation of coastally trapped waves. Model solutions are compared with field observations in the Bass Strait region and with the results of the Australian Coastal Experiment. The effects of a wider shelf and a wider estuary are examined by two more experiments. For the wider shelf, the resulting baroclinic flow is similar to that of the other runs, although the barotropic flow is weaker. The wide estuary model proves to be the most dynamic of all, with the intensified anticyclonic circulation now extending well into the estuary. In the second problem the effect of the horizontal structure of midlatitude oceanic heating on the stationary atmospheric response is examined by means of a continuously stratified model and a simple two level model, both in the quasigeostrophic β-plane approximation. Solutions are obtained for three non-periodic zonal heating structures (line source, segmented cosine, and segmented sine). Little difference is observed between the solutions for these two different models (continuously stratified and two level). There are two cases which emerge in obtaining analytic solutions. In case 1, for large meridional wavenumbers, there exists a large local response and a constant downstream response. In case 2, for small meridional wavenumbers, the far field response is now sinusoidal. A critical wavenumber separating these two cases is obtained. The effect of oceanic heating on the atmosphere over the Kuroshio region is examined in an attempt to explain the large correlations observed between winter Kuroshio oceanic heat flux anomalies, and the winter atmospheric surface pressure and 500 & 700 mb geopotential heights, both upstream and downstream of the heating region. In both models, the response is consistent with the observed correlations. When western North Pacific heating and eastern North Pacific cooling are introduced into the models, a large low pressure response is observed over the central North Pacific. This feature is in excellent agreement with the observed correlations. A time dependent, periodic, two level model (with and without surface friction) is also introduced in order to study the transient atmospheric response to oceanic heating. The height at which the thermodynamic equation is applied is found to be crucial in determining the response of this model. When the heating is entered into the model near to the surface, unstable modes are prevalent sooner than they would be when the heat forcing is applied at a higher level. As in the steady state models, two cases dependent on the meridional wavenumber ɭ emerge in the analysis. For small scale meridional heating structures (large ɭ), the response consists of an upper level high and a lower level low which propagate eastward with time. For large scale meridional heating structures (small ɭ) the response essentially consists of a wavenumber 3-4 perturbation superimposed on the solution for large ɭ.

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