The origin of along-shelf pressure gradient in the middle atlantic bight

F. H. Xu, L. Y. Oey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


It is quite widely accepted that the along-shelf pressure gradient (ASPG) contributes in driving shelf currents in the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) off the northeastern U.S. coast; its origin, however, remains a subject for debate. Based on analyses of 16 yr (1993-2008) of satellite, tide gauge, river, and wind data and numerical experiments, the authors suggest that river and Coastal Labrador Sea Water (CLSW) transport contribute to a positive mean ASPG (tilt up northward) in the ratio of approximately 1:7 (i.e., CLSW dominates), whereas wind and the Gulf Stream tend to produce a negative mean ASPG in the ratio of approximately 1:6. Data also indicate seasonal and interannual variations of ASPG that correlate with the Gulf Stream's shift and eddy kinetic energy north of the Gulf Stream (N-EKE) due to warm-core rings. A southward shift in the Gulf Stream produces a sea level drop north of Cape Hatteras, which is most rapid in winter. The N-EKE peaks in late spring to early summer and is larger in some years than others. A process model is used to show that ring propagation along the MAB slope and ring impingement upon the shelf break north of Cape Hatteras generate along-isobath density gradients and cross-shelfbreak transports that produce sea level change on the shelf; the dominant ageostrophic term in the depth-integrated vorticity balance is the joint effect of baroclinicity and relief (JEBAR) term. In particular, the shelf's sea surface slopes down to the north when rings approach Cape Hatteras.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1720-1740
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Continental shelf/slope
  • Currents
  • Ocean circulation


Dive into the research topics of 'The origin of along-shelf pressure gradient in the middle atlantic bight'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this