Instability of time-dependent wind-driven ocean gyres
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The wind-driven ocean circulation at midlatitudes is susceptible to several types of instabilities. One of the simplest models of these flows is the quasigeostrophic barotropic potential vorticity equation in an idealized ocean basin. In this model, the route to complex spatio/temporal flows is through successive bifurcations. The aim of this study is to describe the physics of the destabilization process of a periodic wind-driven flow associated with a secondary bifurcation. Although bifurcation theory has proven to be a valuable tool to determine the physical mechanisms of destabilization of fluid flows, the analysis of the stability of time-dependent (for example, periodic) flows, using this methodology, is computationally unpractical, due to the large number of degrees-of-freedom involved. The approach followed here is to construct a low-order model using numerical Galerkin projection of the full model equations onto the dynamically active eigenmodes. The resulting reduced model is shown to capture the local dynamics of the full model. The physical mechanism of the destabilization of the periodic wind-driven flow is deduced from the reduced model. While there are several stabilizing processes, notably rectification, the destabilization occurs due to time-dependent increase of the background horizontal shear in the flow.
CitationVaart, P. [et al.]. Instability of time-dependent wind-driven ocean gyres. "Physics of fluids", Octubre 2002, vol. 14, núm. 10, p. 3601-3615.