The Hatteras Front: August 2004 velocity and density structure

Dana K. Savidge, Jay A. Austin

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15 Scopus citations


The Hatteras Front is a persistent mesoscale cross-shelf oriented front off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It is the boundary between relatively cool, fresh Mid-Atlantic Bight shelf waters and warmer, saltier shelf waters of the South Atlantic Bight, which both converge along-shelf upon Cape Hatteras year round. The Frontal Interaction Near Cape Hatteras (FINCH) project was conducted in 2004-2005 to intensively sample the Hatteras Front with shipboard ADCP and undulating towed CTD. This paper documents velocity and density structures associated with the cross-shelf oriented zone of Hatteras Front during the August 2004 field season. Property gradients across the Hatteras Front are large, with temperature (T) and salinity (S) differences of ∼4-6°C, 2-5 psu, respectively over distances of 1-2 km. The T and S are not completely compensating, and a strong density (ρ) gradient also exists, with Δρ of ∼2 kg/m3 across a gentler 10 km wide front. The density gradient results in a steric sea-level height gradient of ∼1-2 cm across the Front, which is in approximate geostrophic balance with a surface intensified jet, directed shoreward along the cross-shelf oriented Front. The velocity is sheared with depth at 3.0 × 10-2 to 5.0 × 10-2 s-1 in the upper 5 m of the jet; a rate consistent with the density gradient according to the thermal wind relationship. Shoreward transport of ∼4.8 × 104 m3/s results from the surface intensified jet. The structure of the velocity field associated with the Hatteras Front resembles that of a slope-controlled buoyant plume, as described by Lentz and Helfrich (2002). Velocity and density structures are similar during both advancing (southwestward) and retreating (northeastward) motion of the Front.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberC07006
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 8 2007


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