Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans








Circulation near a submarine canyon is analyzed with a numerical model. Previous theoretical work indicated that stratification controlled the interaction of coastal flow with canyons, specifically, the ratio of canyon width to the internal radius of deformation. A wide canyon was thought to merely steer the flow, while a narrow canyon would create substantial cross-shelf exchange. Four cases are analyzed considering two directions of alongshore flow and two choices of initial stratification. The weakly stratified case has an internal radius about equal to the canyon width, while the strongly stratified case has one about 3 times the canyon width. The direction of the alongshore flow is shown in this study to be the more important of the two factors. In particular, right-bounded flow (flow with the coast on the right, looking downstream in the northern hemisphere) leads to shallow downwelling in the canyon and weak exchange across the shelf break, while left-bounded flow creates upwelling at the head of the canyon and strong exchange between the ocean and shelf. In left-bounded flow (upwelling), dense water is pumped onto the shelf, even for strong stratification. However, the stratification limits the vertical extent of the topographic influence so that the alongshore flow above the canyon is only weakly affected in the strongly stratified case. With any level of stratification the surface temperature (density) is not modified at all by the flow interaction with the submarine canyon. The important dynamics involve pressure gradients and Coriolis acceleration and how they interact with the bathymetric gradients but not advection of momentum. Advection of density is clearly important in the upwelling cases. Finally, continued upwelling onto the shelf acts as a drag mechanism and retards the alongshore coastal flow.

Original Publication Citation

Klinck, J.M. (1996). Circulation near submarine canyons: A modeling study. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 101(C1), 1211-1223. doi: 10.1029/95jc02901

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Oceanography Commons