A three-dimensional, primitive equation ocean model is used to study the circulation in the West Caribbean Sea (WCS) region, and to test the sensitivity of the coastal flow to various forcing fields such as tides, climatological wind, and Caribbean eddies. The model domain is bordered by latitudes 15 – 22 degrees N and longitudes 76 – 87 degrees W, with the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS, along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras) and the southern coast of Cuba as land boundaries. The WCS is open to the Caribbean Sea in the southeast and the Yucatan Channel in the northwest, with a prescribed 25 Sv flow-through from southeast to northwest. The results show that the base flow is highly variable even without time dependent forcing and without assimilation of eddies. The interaction of the base flow with the bathymetry gives rise to frequent westward propagating cyclonic eddies with diameters of 50-150 km in the Gulf of Honduras, and an anticyclonic eddy southeast of the Yucatan Channel with diameter of 200 km. When mesoscale eddies are included in the initial condition through assimilation of altimeter data, the WCS model simulates the propagation of those eddies, so that the eddy field is quite realistic even after 45 days from the initialization. Moreover, eddies were found to influence the coastal flow, such that when a cyclonic or an anticyclonic eddy is propagating through the WCS, the velocity field along the MBRS is either attenuated or enhanced, respectively. The area-averaged mean surface kinetic energy is influenced mostly by the 25 Sv flow-through and climatological winds, while the area- averaged eddy surface kinetic energy is influenced mostly by the mesoscale Caribbean eddies.
Original Publication Citation
Thattai, D., Ezer, T., & Kjerfve, B. (2004). On the sensitivity of the West Caribbean Sea circulation to tides, wind and mesoscale ocean eddies: A three-dimensional ocean model study. Pre-print.
Thattai, Deeptha V.; Ezer, Tal; and Kjerfve, Bjorn, "On the Sensitivity of the West Caribbean Sea Circulation to Tides, Wind, and Mesoscale Ocean Eddies: A Three-Dimensional Ocean Model Study" (2004). CCPO Publications. 174.