Generation of Rossby waves off the Cape Verde Peninsula: the role of the coastline

Sirven, Jérôme; Mignot, Juliette; Crépon, Michel

In December 2002 and January 2003 satellite observations of chlorophyll showed a strong coastal signal along the west African coast between 10 and 22∘ N. In addition, a wavelike pattern with a wavelength of about 750 km was observed from 20 December 2002 and was detectable for 1 month in the open sea, south-west of the Cape Verde Peninsula. Such a pattern suggests the existence of a locally generated Rossby wave which slowly propagated westward during this period. This hypothesis was confirmed by analysing sea surface height provided by satellite altimeter during this period. To decipher the mechanisms at play, a numerical study based on a reduced-gravity shallow-water model has first been conducted. A wind burst, broadly extending over the region where the offshore oceanic signal is observed, is applied for 5 d. A Kelvin wave quickly develops along the northern edge of the cape, then propagates and leaves the area in a few days. Simultaneously, a Rossby wave whose characteristics seem similar to the observed pattern forms and slowly propagates westward. The existence of the peninsula limits the extent of the wave to the north. The spatial extent of the wind burst determines the extent of the response and correspondingly the timescale of the phenomenon (about 100 d in the present case). When the wind burst has a large zonal and small meridional extent, the behaviour of a wave to the north of the peninsula differs from that to the south. These results are corroborated and completed by an analytical study of a linear reduced-gravity model using a non-Cartesian coordinate system. This system is introduced to evaluate the potential impact of the coastline shape. The analytical computations confirm that a period of around 100 d can be associated with the observed wave considering the value of the wavelength; they also show that the role of the coastline remains moderate at such timescales. By contrast, when the period becomes shorter (smaller than 20–30 d), the behaviour of the waves is modified because of the shape of the coast. South of the peninsula, a narrow band of sea isolated from the rest of the ocean by two critical lines appears. Its meridional extent is about 100 km and Rossby waves could propagate there towards the coast.

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Sirven, Jérôme / Mignot, Juliette / Crépon, Michel: Generation of Rossby waves off the Cape Verde Peninsula: the role of the coastline. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Jérôme Sirven et al.

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