Topographic and stratification effects on shelf edge flows

Yakun Guo, Peter A. Davies, Alessandra Cavalletti, Pieter Jacobs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Results are presented from two sets of laboratory model experiments on the effects of an isolated seamount upon the flow of an intermediate-water slope current along a continental shelf. The experimental results for initial ambient conditions of respectively two-layer and linearly stratified fluids show that the structure of such a boundary current depends primarily on the values of the appropriate set of dimensionless dynamical parameters (namely the Burger (Bu), Ekman (Ek) and Rossby (Ro) numbers), as well as the dimensionless lateral separation of the seamount and shelf and the proportional height of the seamount relative to the distance from the bottom at which the intermediate-water flows. Comparisons of the present results with those from a previous two-layer fluid study with no obstacle present reveals that the presence of the obstacle does not alter significantly the stability of the current even when situated close to the shelf. However, for such configurations, the density, velocity and vorticity fields in the local zone of interaction between the current and the obstacle are distorted significantly by the presence of the obstacle, provided that the summit of the obstacle penetrates the level of current flow. Measurements of density, velocity and vorticity fields show no significant dependence of the flow interaction upon the detailed bathymetry of the shelf-slope. For stable intermediate-water slope currents, the nature of the interaction with the obstacle is determined primarily by (i) the lateral separation of the obstacle and the shelf edge and (ii) the Ro of the flow. For sufficiently low values of the former and high values of the latter, the interaction results in a splitting of the incident flow around the obstacle, with cyclonic and anticyclonic eddy pairs being generated in the lee. Geostrophic equilibrium is seen to be maintained in the current, even in the near wake of the obstacle. For cases in which the summit of the seamount is below the initially-undisturbed intermediate water level, no Taylor column-like division of the slope current occurs and no significant distortion of the current structure (velocity and density) occurs for the parameter ranges investigated. For linearly stratified cases, measurements show that no significant local elevation or depression of the density interfaces is observed in the interaction zone. The distributions of the local buoyancy frequencies calculated from the density profiles reveal that the minimum value of the frequency upstream of the obstacle is smaller than that downstream, indicating that the flow interactions generate local mixing downstream, with consequent erosion of the density interfaces.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)73-116
    Number of pages44
    JournalDynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000


    • Topographic
    • Stratification effects
    • Shelf edge flows


    Dive into the research topics of 'Topographic and stratification effects on shelf edge flows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this