Model studies of dense water overflows in the Faroese Channels

Alan Cuthbertson, Peter A Davies, Nataliya Stashchuk, Vasiliy Vlasenko

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    Abstract

    The overflow of dense water from the Nordic Seas through the Faroese Channel system was investigated through combined laboratory experiments and numerical simulations using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology General Circulation Model. In the experimental study, a scaled, topographic representation of the Faroe-Shetland Channel, Wyville-Thomson Basin and Ridge and Faroe Bank Channel seabed bathymetry was constructed and mounted in a rotating tank. A series of parametric experiments was conducted using dye-tracing and drogue-tracking techniques to investigate deep-water overflow pathways and circulation patterns within the modelled region. In addition, the structure of the outflowing dense bottom water was investigated through density profiling along three cross-channel transects located in the Wyville-Thomson Basin and the converging, up-sloping approach to the Faroe Bank Channel. Results from the dye-tracing studies demonstrate a range of parametric conditions under which dense water overflow across the Wyville-Thomson Ridge is shown to occur, as defined by the Burger number, a non-dimensional length ratio and a dimensionless dense water volume flux parameter specified at the Faroe-Shetland Channel inlet boundary. Drogue-tracking measurements reveal the complex nature of flow paths and circulations generated in the modelled topography, particularly the development of a large anti-cyclonic gyre in the Wyville-Thompson Basin and up-sloping approach to the Faroe Bank Channel, which diverts the dense water outflow from the Faroese shelf towards the Wyville-Thomson Ridge, potentially promoting dense water spillage across the ridge itself. The presence of this circulation is also indicated by associated undulations in density isopycnals across the Wyville-Thomson Basin. Numerical simulations of parametric test cases for the main outflow pathways and density structure in a similarly-scaled Faroese Channels model domain indicate excellent qualitative agreement with the experimental observations and measurements. In addition, the comparisons show that strong temporal variability in the predicted outflow pathways and circulations have a strong influence in regulating the Faroe Bank Channel and Wyville-Thomson Ridge overflows, as well as in determining the overall response in the Faroese Channels to changes in the Faroe-Shetland Channel inlet boundary conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)273-292
    Number of pages20
    JournalOcean Dynamics
    Volume64
    Issue number2
    Early online date22 Jan 2014
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

    Keywords

    • Faroese Channels
    • Dense water outflows
    • Circulations
    • Overflows
    • North Atlantic
    • Laboratory model
    • Computational model
    • WYVILLE-THOMSON RIDGE
    • BANK CHANNEL
    • CIRCULATION
    • OUTFLOW
    • FLOWS

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