This paper explores the dynamical origin and physical characteristics of flow disturbances induced by ocean currents in interaction with shelf-incised submarine canyons. To this end, a process-oriented hydrodynamic model is applied in a series of case studies. The focus of studies is the canyon-upwelling process in which seawater is moved from the upper continental slope onto the shelf within a shelf-break canyon. Results reveal that the generation of canyon upwelling, to zero-order approximation, is a barotropic and friction-independent quasi-geostrophic process. Hence, the principle of conservation of potential vorticity for such flows is sufficient to explain the fundamental physical properties of the canyon-upwelling process. For instance, this principle explains the direction-dependence of the canyon-upwelling process. This principle also explains the formation of stationary topographic Rossby waves downstream from the canyon that can lead to far-field effects. Density effects, being of secondary influence to the canyon-upwelling process, result in the intensification of canyon-upwelling flows via the formation of narrow near-bottom density fronts and associated baroclinic geostrophic frontal flows. Findings of this work reveal that the apparently complex canyon-upwelling process is much more basic than previously thought.
- Cross-shelf exchange
- Hydrodynamic modeling