Observations show that radii of oceanic eddies often exceed the Rossby radius of deformation, whereas theoretical studies suggest that such vortices should be unstable. The present paper resolves this paradox by presenting a wide class of large geostrophic vortices with a sign‐definite gradient of potential vorticity (which makes them stable), in an ocean where the density gradient is mostly confined to a thin near‐surface layer (which is indeed the case in the real ocean). The condition of a thin “active” layer is what makes the present work different from the previous theoretical studies and is of utmost importance. It turns out that without it, the joint requirement that a vortex be large and have a sign‐definite potential vorticity gradient trivializes the problem by eliminating all vortices except nearly barotropic ones.
Geophysical Research Letters – Wiley
Published: Jan 28, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ;
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