Chapter 12 - Vorticity in the Ocean

Chapter 12 Contents

12.4 Important Concepts

  1. Vorticity strongly constrains ocean dynamics.


  2. Vorticity due to Earth's rotation is much greater than other sources of vorticity.


  3. Taylor and Proudman showed that vertical velocity is impossible in a uniformly rotating flow. The ocean is rigid in the direction parallel to the rotation axis. Hence Ekman pumping requires that planetary vorticity vary with latitude. This explains why Sverdrup and Stommel found that realistic oceanic circulation, which is driven by Ekman pumping, requires that f vary with latitude.


  4. The curl of the wind stress adds relative vorticity to central gyres of each ocean basin. For steady state circulation in the gyre, the ocean must lose vorticity in western boundary currents.


  5. Positive wind stress curl leads to divergent flow in the Ekman layer. The ocean's interior geostrophic circulation adjusts through a northward mass transport.


  6. Conservation of absolute vorticity in an ocean with constant density leads to the conservation of potential vorticity. Thus changes in depth in an ocean of constant density requires changes of latitude of the current.

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