Generation mechanisms for mesoscale eddies in the Gulf of Lions: radar observation and modeling

Schaeffer, Amandine; Molcard, Anne; Forget, Philippe; Fraunié, Philippe; Garreau, Pierre
October 2011
Ocean Dynamics;Oct2011, Vol. 61 Issue 10, p1587
Academic Journal
Coastal mesoscale eddies were evidenced during a high-frequency radar campaign in the Gulf of Lions (GoL), northwestern Mediterranean Sea, from June 2005 to January 2007. These anticyclonic eddies are characterized by repeated and intermittent occurrences as well as variable lifetime. This paper aims at studying the link between these new surface observations with similar structures suggested at depth by traditional acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements and investigates the eddy generation and driving mechanisms by means of an academic numerical study. The influence of the wind forcing on the GoL circulation and the eddy generation is analyzed, using a number of idealized configurations in order to investigate the interaction with river discharge, buoyancy, and bathymetric effects. The wind forcing is shown to be crucial for two different generation mechanisms: A strong northerly offshore wind (Mistral) generates a vortex column due to the bathymetric constraint of a geostrophic barotropic current, which can surface after the wind relaxes; a southerly onshore wind generates a freshwater bulge from the Rhône river discharge, which detaches from the coast and forms a well-defined surface anticyclonic eddy based on buoyancy gradients. These structures are expected to have important consequences in terms of dispersion or retention of biogeochemical material at local scales.


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