A Laboratory Study of the Wind-driven Ocean Circulation

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Arx, William S. Von (2011)

Experiments with rotating oceanographic models are being attempted in the laboratory at Woods Hole in the hope that some information may be gained which will help to close the gap between recent theories of ocean circulation and the observed nature of the circulation. Recent theoretical descriptions by Stommel (1948) and Munk (1950) indicate the broad features of the climatological mean circulation pattern. In contrast, observations usually allow description of possibly transient situations in only relatively small regions. The major observational problem at the moment, short of synoptic measurements over large areas, is to learn how the observations made from moving ships fit into the pattern of very large scale fluid processes. Some insight has already been gained through the search for atmospheric counterparts initiated by Dr C.-G. Rossby, and it is hoped that a wind-driven model of the oceans may offer additional clues. It is recognized that ocean models cannot be scaled in every particular and that the scales taken into account may lead to error since processes of verification, ordinarily used to test the suitability of hydraulic models, cannot be applied. Thus the behavior of a rotating model can bear a limited resemblance only to contemporary ideas of what the primary ocean circulation may be like. In terms of these ideas, however, it has been possible to reproduce westward intensification of the primary circulations in compartments shaped like the North Atlantic and North Pacific basins. Sargasso Sea-like features and several details have also appeared which are qualitatively like contemporary views of the major motions of the sea. These major, and some minor features of the circulation develop rapidly under wind-stress applied to homogeneous water.DOI: 10.1111/j.2153-3490.1952.tb01018.x
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