An analytical model is developed to study the tidally induced mean circulation in the frontal zone. Four distinct forcing mechanisms are identified, which result in the generation of the counterclockwise Bernoulli cell, the clockwise Ekman cell, the clockwise frontal cell, and the Stokes drift (facing in the direction with the shallow water to the left). The decomposition of the cross-frontal circulation provides a dynamical framework for interpreting and understanding its complex structure. To illustrate the underlying physics, three model configurations are considered pertaining to a homogenous ocean and winter and summer fronts. For a homogeneous ocean, the circulation is dominated by three cells; for the winter front, the offshore Bernoulli cell is strengthened; and for the summer front, two counterrotating cells are found in the vertical direction, associated with the two branches of the front. The dependence of the cell structure on the Ekman, Burger, and other dimensionless numbers is examined.
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