A 3D, finite element model for baroclinic circulation on the Vancouver Island continental shelf

Journal of Marine Systems



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This paper describes the development and application of a 3-dimensional model of the barotropic and baroclinic circulation on the continental shelf west of Vancouver Island, Canada. A previous study with a 2D barotropic model and field data revealed that several tidal constituents have a significant baroclinic component (the K1 in particular). Thus we embarked on another study with a 3D model to study the baroclinic effects on the residual and several selected tidal constituents. The 3D model uses a harmonic expansion in time and a finite element discretization in space. All nonlinear terms are retained, including quadratic bottom stress, advection and wave transport (continuity nonlinearity). The equations are solved as a global and a local problem, where the global problem is the solution of the wave equation formulation of the shallow water equations, and the local problem is the solution of the momentum equation for the vertical velocity profile. These equations are coupled to the advection-diffusion equation for density so that density gradient forcing is included in the momentum equations. However, the study presented here describes diagnostic calculations for the baroclinic residual circulation only. The model is sufficiently efficient that it encourages sensitivity testing with a large number of model runs. In this sense, the model is akin to an extension of analytical solutions to the domain of irregular geometry and bottom topography where this parameter space can be explored in some detail. In particular, the consequences of the sigma coordinate system used by the model are explored. Test cases using an idealized representation of the continental shelf, shelf break and shelf slope, lead to an estimation of the velocity errors caused by interpolation errors inherent in the sigma coordinate system. On the basis of these estimates, the computational grid used in the 2D model is found to have inadequate resolution. Thus a new grid is generated with increased accuracy in the region of the shelf break. However, even with increased resolution, spurious baroclinic circulation seaward of the shelf break and in the vicinity of Juan de Fuca canyon remained a significant problem when the pressure gradient terms were evaluated using the ?? coordinate system and using a realistic density profile. With the new grid, diagnostic calculations of the barotropic and baroclinic residual circulation are performed using forcing from the observed ??t (density) field and from the gradient of this field. ?? 1992.

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A 3D, finite element model for baroclinic circulation on the Vancouver Island continental shelf
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Journal of Marine Systems
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Journal Article
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Journal of Marine Systems
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