On the size and distribution of rings and coherent vortices in the Sargasso Sea

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The container motor vessel CMV Oleander, which operates between New Jersey and Bermuda, crosses the Gulf Stream and Sargasso Sea all year round on a semiweekly schedule. Using an acoustic Doppler current profiler, measurements of upper ocean currents have been made on a regular basis since the fall of 1992. In this paper we examine the database for evidence of axisymmetric coherent vortices including the distribution and intensity of cold core rings. To detect the existence of coherent vortices, the patterns of current vectors averaged between 40 and 80 m depth were fit to an axisymmetric Gaussian vortex model. The parameters of the model were axis location, maximum tangential, or swirl, speed, and radius at which the maximum swirl was measured. We were able to distinguish between the well-known cold core "rings" (CCRs) pinched from the Gulf Stream, and a population of cyclonic and anticyclonic "vortices" in the Sargasso Sea. Both the rings and the Sargasso Sea vortices showed radii of 64 ± 18 km, albeit with different swirl speeds. The rings, close to the Gulf Stream, exhibited a typical maximum swirl speed of 0.98 ± 0.40 m s-1 and a center relative vorticity of 0.64 ± 0.35 × 10-4 s-1, almost 80% of the planetary vorticity for the region. The more uniform population of Sargasso Sea vortices contained approximately equal numbers of cyclones and anticyclones, with mean speeds of+0.43 and -0.55 m s-1, and center relative vorticities of+0.24 × 10-4 s-1 and -0.29 × 10-4 s-1, respectively. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans