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Wind‐forced symmetric instability at a transient mid‐ocean front

Wind‐forced symmetric instability at a transient mid‐ocean front
Wind‐forced symmetric instability at a transient mid‐ocean front
Mooring and glider observations and a high‐resolution satellite sea surface temperature image reveal features of a transient submesoscale front in a typical mid‐ocean region of the Northeast Atlantic. Analysis of the observations suggests that the front is forced by downfront winds and undergoes symmetric instability, resulting in elevated upper‐ocean kinetic energy, re‐stratification and turbulent dissipation. The instability is triggered as downfront winds act on weak upper‐ocean vertical stratification and strong lateral stratification produced by mesoscale frontogenesis. The instability's estimated rate of kinetic energy extraction from the front accounts for the difference between the measured rate of turbulent dissipation and the predicted contribution from one‐dimensional scalings of buoyancy‐ and wind‐driven turbulence, indicating that the instability underpins the enhanced dissipation. These results provide direct evidence of the occurrence of symmetric instability in a quiescent open‐ocean environment, and highlight the need to represent the instability's re‐stratification and dissipative effects in climate‐scale ocean models.
0094-8276
Yu, Xiaolong
3ffa551d-f57e-4f49-a130-475e43039c75
Naveira Garabato, Alberto C.
97c0e923-f076-4b38-b89b-938e11cea7a6
Martin, Adrian P.
9d0d480d-9b3c-44c2-aafe-bb980ed98a6d
Evans, D. Gwyn
4e1ed170-9119-4b35-a45f-55f8d07fa24e
Su, Zhan
5e72ecf8-2480-4239-88bd-9badeaceaf32
Yu, Xiaolong
3ffa551d-f57e-4f49-a130-475e43039c75
Naveira Garabato, Alberto C.
97c0e923-f076-4b38-b89b-938e11cea7a6
Martin, Adrian P.
9d0d480d-9b3c-44c2-aafe-bb980ed98a6d
Evans, D. Gwyn
4e1ed170-9119-4b35-a45f-55f8d07fa24e
Su, Zhan
5e72ecf8-2480-4239-88bd-9badeaceaf32

Yu, Xiaolong, Naveira Garabato, Alberto C., Martin, Adrian P., Evans, D. Gwyn and Su, Zhan (2019) Wind‐forced symmetric instability at a transient mid‐ocean front. Geophysical Research Letters. (doi:10.1029/2019GL084309).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Mooring and glider observations and a high‐resolution satellite sea surface temperature image reveal features of a transient submesoscale front in a typical mid‐ocean region of the Northeast Atlantic. Analysis of the observations suggests that the front is forced by downfront winds and undergoes symmetric instability, resulting in elevated upper‐ocean kinetic energy, re‐stratification and turbulent dissipation. The instability is triggered as downfront winds act on weak upper‐ocean vertical stratification and strong lateral stratification produced by mesoscale frontogenesis. The instability's estimated rate of kinetic energy extraction from the front accounts for the difference between the measured rate of turbulent dissipation and the predicted contribution from one‐dimensional scalings of buoyancy‐ and wind‐driven turbulence, indicating that the instability underpins the enhanced dissipation. These results provide direct evidence of the occurrence of symmetric instability in a quiescent open‐ocean environment, and highlight the need to represent the instability's re‐stratification and dissipative effects in climate‐scale ocean models.

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Accepted/In Press date: 5 September 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 12 September 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 435124
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/435124
ISSN: 0094-8276
PURE UUID: dad72dd1-1514-43b2-a132-d46c632ca6a8

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Date deposited: 23 Oct 2019 16:30
Last modified: 29 Nov 2019 17:30

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