On the role of domain aspect ratio in the westward intensification of wind-driven surface ocean circulation

Kaushal Gianchandani, Hezi Gildor, Nathan Paldor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The two seminal studies on westward intensification, carried out by Stommel and Munk over 70 years ago, are revisited to elucidate the role of the domain aspect ratio (i.e., meridional to zonal extents of the basin) in determining the transport of the western boundary current (WBC). We examine the general mathematical properties of the two models by transforming them to differential problems that contain only two parameters-the domain aspect ratio and the non-dimensional damping (viscous) coefficient. Explicit analytical expressions are obtained from solutions of the non-dimensional vorticity equations and verified by long-term numerical simulations of the corresponding time-dependent equations. The analytical expressions as well as the simulations imply that in Stommel's model both the domain aspect ratio and the damping parameter contribute to the non-dimensional transport of the WBC. However, the transport increases as a cubic power of the aspect ratio and decreases linearly with the damping coefficient. On the other hand, in Munk's model the WBC's transport increases linearly with the domain aspect ratio, while the damping coefficient plays a minor role only. This finding is employed to explain the weak WBC in the South Pacific. The decrease in transport of the WBC for small-domain aspect ratio results from the decrease in Sverdrup transport in the basin's interior because the meridional shear of the zonal velocity cannot be neglected as an additional vorticity term.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)351-363
Number of pages13
JournalOcean Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 18 Feb 2021

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© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


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