Using nonseasonal altimeter data and SST observations of the North Atlantic, and more specifically the Gulf Stream region, dominant patterns of variability are determined using multivariate time series analyses. A statistically significant propagating mode of variability with a timescale close to 9 months is found, the latter timescale corresponding to dominant variability found in earlier studies. In addition, output from a high resolution simulation of the Parallel Ocean Climate Model (POCM) is analyzed, which also displays variability on a timescale of 9 months, although not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. The vertical structure of this 9-month mode turns out to be approximately equivalent barotropic. Following the idea that this mode is due to internal ocean dynamics, steady flow patterns and their instabilities are determined within a barotropic ocean model of the North Atlantic using techniques of numerical bifurcation theory. Within this model, there appear to be two different mean flow paths of the Gulf Stream, both of which become unstable to oscillatory modes. For reasonable values of the parameters, an oscillatory instability having a timescale of 9 months is found. The connection between results from the bifurcation analysis, from the analysis of the observations, and from the analysis of the POCM output is explored in more detail and leads to the conjecture that the 9-month variability is related to a barotropic instability of the wind-driven gyres.
MJ Schmeits, HA Dijkstra. Physics of the 9-month variability in the Gulf Stream region: Combining data and dynamical systems analyses
published, J. Phys. Oceanogr., 2000, 30