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Time scales of submesoscale flow inferred from a mooring array

Time scales of submesoscale flow inferred from a mooring array
Time scales of submesoscale flow inferred from a mooring array
While the distribution of kinetic energy across spatial scales in the submesoscale range (1–100 km) has been estimated from observations, the associated time scales are largely unconstrained. These time scales can provide important insight into the dynamics of submesoscale turbulence because they help quantify to what degree the flow is subinertial and thus constrained by Earth’s rotation. Here a mooring array is used to estimate these time scales in the northeast Atlantic. Frequency-resolved structure functions indicate that energetic wintertime submesoscale turbulence at spatial scales around 10 km evolves on time scales of about 1 day. While these time scales are comparable to the inertial period, the observed flow also displays characteristics of subinertial flow that is geostrophically balanced to leading order. An approximate Helmholtz decomposition shows the order 10-km flow to be dominated by its rotational component, and the root-mean-square Rossby number at these scales is estimated to be 0.3. This rotational dominance and Rossby numbers below one persist down to 2.6 km, the smallest spatial scale accessible by the mooring array, despite substantially superinertial Eulerian evolution. This indicates that the Lagrangian evolution of submesoscale turbulence is slower than the Eulerian time scale estimated from the moorings. The observations therefore suggest that, on average, submesoscale turbulence largely follows subinertial dynamics in the 1–100-km range, even if Doppler shifting produces superinertial Eulerian evolution. Ageostrophic motions become increasingly important for the evolution of submesoscale turbulence as the scale is reduced—the root-mean-square Rossby number reaches 0.5 at a spatial scale of 2.6 km.
0022-3670
1065-1086
Callies, Jörn
d7d71837-daff-4e61-955c-1f8e50bd3d67
Barkan, Roy
65fbf32e-8e93-4d02-bbba-1c18f39657e8
Garabato, Alberto Naveira
97c0e923-f076-4b38-b89b-938e11cea7a6
Callies, Jörn
d7d71837-daff-4e61-955c-1f8e50bd3d67
Barkan, Roy
65fbf32e-8e93-4d02-bbba-1c18f39657e8
Garabato, Alberto Naveira
97c0e923-f076-4b38-b89b-938e11cea7a6

Callies, Jörn, Barkan, Roy and Garabato, Alberto Naveira (2020) Time scales of submesoscale flow inferred from a mooring array. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 50 (4), 1065-1086. (doi:10.1175/JPO-D-19-0254.1).

Record type: Article

Abstract

While the distribution of kinetic energy across spatial scales in the submesoscale range (1–100 km) has been estimated from observations, the associated time scales are largely unconstrained. These time scales can provide important insight into the dynamics of submesoscale turbulence because they help quantify to what degree the flow is subinertial and thus constrained by Earth’s rotation. Here a mooring array is used to estimate these time scales in the northeast Atlantic. Frequency-resolved structure functions indicate that energetic wintertime submesoscale turbulence at spatial scales around 10 km evolves on time scales of about 1 day. While these time scales are comparable to the inertial period, the observed flow also displays characteristics of subinertial flow that is geostrophically balanced to leading order. An approximate Helmholtz decomposition shows the order 10-km flow to be dominated by its rotational component, and the root-mean-square Rossby number at these scales is estimated to be 0.3. This rotational dominance and Rossby numbers below one persist down to 2.6 km, the smallest spatial scale accessible by the mooring array, despite substantially superinertial Eulerian evolution. This indicates that the Lagrangian evolution of submesoscale turbulence is slower than the Eulerian time scale estimated from the moorings. The observations therefore suggest that, on average, submesoscale turbulence largely follows subinertial dynamics in the 1–100-km range, even if Doppler shifting produces superinertial Eulerian evolution. Ageostrophic motions become increasingly important for the evolution of submesoscale turbulence as the scale is reduced—the root-mean-square Rossby number reaches 0.5 at a spatial scale of 2.6 km.

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Accepted/In Press date: 23 January 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 8 April 2020
Published date: April 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 440629
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/440629
ISSN: 0022-3670
PURE UUID: b653f9e5-45a2-4ce7-953b-21d9d284b6ac

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Date deposited: 12 May 2020 16:46
Last modified: 15 Nov 2022 05:01

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Author: Jörn Callies
Author: Roy Barkan

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