Physical Oceanography, Vol.
ON THE TRANSPORT OF WATER MASSES BY LONG-PERIOD WAVES
IN SEAS AND OCEANS
A. L. Bondarenko, V. V. Zhmur, Yu. G. Filippov, and V. A. Shchev’ev
Parallel with the traditional hypotheses on the predominantly wind (Ekman), gradient, and ther-
mohaline nature of large-scale currents in seas and oceans, there exist hypotheses on the parti-
cipation of long-period waves in the formation of these currents. As the physical mechanisms of
generation of currents by waves, one can mention nonlinear wave transport and the phenomenon
of negative viscosity in waves. From the viewpoint of existence of these mechanisms, numerous
scientists explain high velocities of jet currents and their stable character. The predominant role
of winds and thermohaline processes in the formation of large-scale currents is also accepted. On
the basis of the experimental data, we demonstrate additional possibilities for the formation of
large-scale currents given by the transport of water masses by long-period waves.
General Facts Concerning Rossby Waves, Continental Shelf Waves, Tidal and Large-Scale Currents
In closed seas and oceans, there exist currents whose direction is stable (they are called large-scale circula-
tion or large-scale currents) and variable currents whose vector varies as a function of time in a certain quasicy-
clic way. In [1–5], one can find information according to which the currents of long-period waves are predomi-
nant in the variable currents of closed seas and oceans. In the oceans, these are tidal, inertial, and Rossby waves.
In the closed seas, these are inertial and continental shelf waves [6–8]. According to  and in agreement with
our concepts, the Rossby and continental shelf waves have similar nature, dynamics, and dispersion relations.
Thus, the Rossby waves have periods of about one month and amplitudes of oscillations of current velocity of
sec. In the regions of jet currents, they become equal to 1–1.5
sec and have a wavelength of
km and a phase velocity of
sec. The continental shelf waves have periods of about one week, the
amplitudes of oscillations of current velocity of
a wavelength of
and a phase vel-
In the variable currents of seas and oceans, one can readily detect energetically powerful currents of Rossby
and continental shelf waves. There are several different hypotheses concerning the formation of waves, their
mutual relationships, and correlations with the phenomena generating these waves. These hypotheses are fairly
completely presented in [1–4, 9–14]. Following these works, we select and study the following scenarios of for-
mation of the analyzed phenomena and their correlations. We arrange these scenarios according to the degree of
First scenario. The large-scale circulation is formed by the winds in the mode of wind (Ekman) currents
and/or thermohaline structures in the mode of geostrophic or quasigeostrophic currents. The Rossby and conti-
nental shelf waves are caused by the instability of these currents.
Institute for Water Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia; Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of
Sciences, Moscow, Russia; State Oceanographic Institute, Moscow, Russia. Translated from Morskoi Gidrofizicheskii Zhurnal, No.
24–34, September–October, 2004. Original article submitted February 20, 2003; revision submitted May 8, 2003.
0928-5105/04/1405–0275 © 2004 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 275