Climatological mean circulation at the New England shelf break

Weifeng G. Zhang, Glen G. Gawarkiewicz, Dennis J. Mcgillicuddy, John L. Wilkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


A two-dimensional cross-shelf model of the New England continental shelf and slope is used to investigate the mean cross-shelf and vertical circulation at the shelf break and their seasonal variation. The model temperature and salinity fields are nudged toward climatology. Annual and seasonal mean wind stresses are applied on the surface in separate equilibriumsimulations. The along-shelf pressure gradient force associated with the along-shelf sea level tilt is tuned to match the modeled and observed depth-averaged along-shelf velocity. Steady-state model solutions show strong seasonal variation in along-shelf and cross-shelf velocity, with the strongest along-shelf jet and interior onshore flow in winter, consistent with observations. Alongshelf sea level tilt associated with the tuned along-shelf pressure gradient increases shoreward because of decreasing water depth. The along-shelf sea level tilt varies seasonally with the wind and is the strongest in winter and weakest in summer. A persistent upwelling is generated at the shelf break with a maximum strength of 2 m day-1 at 50-m depth in winter. The modeled shelfbreak upwelling differs from the traditional view in that most of the upwelled water is from the upper continental slope instead of from the shelf in the form of a detached bottom boundary layer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1874-1893
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography


  • North Atlantic Ocean
  • Ocean circulation

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