A climatology of the Middle Atlantic Bight shelfbreak front

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Authors
Linder, Christopher Anthony
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1996-09
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Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School
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eng
Abstract
Description of the shelfbreak front in the Middle Atlantic Bight is hampered by the extreme variability of the front. In order to gain more insight into the mean frontal structure and associated baroclinic jet, historical data is used to produce two dimensional climatological fields of temperature and salinity for the region south of Nantucket shoals. Associated cross-shelf fields of density, geostrophic velocity, relative vorticity, and shallow water potential vorticity have also been computed. Historical data from a quality- controlled database (HydroBase) in the region 69-72 deg W, 39.5-41 deg N is included. Cross-shelf sections are obtained by averaging the data in nine depth bins with an average cross-shelf spacing of 10 km but an increased resolution of 4 km near the shelfbreak. The vertical averaging interval was 10 m over the shelf and upper slope waters, increasing to 50 m in the deep slope waters. The data were averaged in bimonthly periods to study seasonal trends. For inter- regional comparison, similar analyses were performed for the south flank of Georges Bank and the shelf off New Jersey. The climatological temperature and salinity are consistent with previous descriptions of the frontal hydrography. Most importantly, features such as the cold pool, the upper slope pycnostad, and the frontal boundary are well resolved when compared with synoptic sections. The temperature contrast across the front varies seasonally between 2-6 deg C near the surface and at depths of 45-65 m. The salinity contrast is 1.5-2 PSS, with little seasonal variation. The resulting cross-frontal near surface density gradients are strongest during the winter and weakest during the summer, when the seasonal thermocline is established
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