Observations of barotropic oscillations and their influence on mixing in the Faroe bank channel overflow region
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Geophysical Institute 
Observations of hydrography, currents, and microstructure are presented together with sea surface height (SSH) patterns from concurrent satellite tracks to describe the subinertial oscillations in the region downstream of the Faroe Bank Channel overflow. Energetic oscillations with a dominant 3–5-day period have previously been observed in the dense bottom layer and found to be consistent with topographic Rossby waves. Here, the authors present evidence that the oscillations extend over the whole water column and are connected to a wave-like pattern in SSH along the continental slope. The waves are observed in two satellite tracks running parallel to the slope and indicate a wavelength of 50–75 km, an amplitude of about 5 cm, and a phase speed of 15–20 cm s−1. The pattern extends at least 450 km along the slope. Repeat occupations of a section through a 4-day period show a barotropic velocity anomaly that is associated with an increase in plume transport [from 0.5 to 2.5 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1)] and interface height (from 100 to 200 m) as well as changes in dissipation rates and mixing. Estimates of entrainment velocity wE vary with a factor of 102 over the oscillation period, and there is an inverse relation between wE and plume thickness, that is, mixing is most intense when the dense bottom layer is thin. High values of wE coincide with a large percentage of critical Richardson numbers in the interfacial layer. The rotational motion, or the horizontal “stirring,” is observed to bring water from the south, traceable because of its low oxygen concentrations, into the plume.