Experimental observations of baroclinic eddies on a sloping bottom


  • John A. Whitehead,

  • Melvin E. Stern,

  • Glenn R. Flierl,

  • Barry A. Klinger


Baroclinic eddies in a rotating box with a sloping bottom were produced by squirting dense salt water up the sloping bottom and along the “eastern” wall. The jet stagnated in shallow water and was ejected normal to the wall. For certain parameters (volume flux of jet, etc.), a coherent lens of dense bottom water formed and propagated west with an overlying cyclonic vortex. The circulation in the bottom lens, on the other hand, was relatively weak. No such eddy forms when the depth of fresh water is relatively deep, and a regime diagram is given for the formation of the coherent eddies. Thus a relatively simple structure emerges despite the complexity of the generating process. The pressure field determined from density measurements is discussed in terms of an integral theorem for coherent eddies, and the westward propagation is also related to previous theories. Several other techniques for generating such eddies are discussed.