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SSH Wavenumber Spectra in the North Pacific from a High-Resolution Realistic Simulation

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  • 1 Earth Simulator Center, JAMSTEC, Yokohama, Japan
  • | 2 Laboratoire de Physique des Océans, Ifremer/CNRS/UBO/IRD, Plouzané, France
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Abstract

Following recent studies based on altimetric data, this paper analyses the spectral characteristics of the sea surface height (SSH) using a new realistic simulation of the North Pacific Ocean with high resolution ( in the horizontal and 100 vertical levels). This simulation resolves smaller scales (down to ≈10 km) than altimetric data (limited to 70 km because of the noise level). In high eddy kinetic energy (EKE) regions (as in the western part), SSH spectral slope almost follows a k−4 (with k the wavenumber) or slightly steeper law in agreement with altimeter studies. The new result is that, unlike altimeter studies, such a k−4 slope is also observed in low EKE regions (as in the eastern part). In these regions, this slope mostly concerns scales not well resolved by altimetric data. Such k−4 SSH spectral slopes are weaker from what is expected from quasigeostrophic turbulence theory but closer to surface quasigeostrophic (SQG) turbulence theory. The consequence is that the small scales concerned by these spectral slopes, in particular in low EKE regions, may significantly affect the larger ones because of the inverse kinetic energy cascade. These results need to be confirmed using a longer numerical integration. They also need to be corroborated by high-resolution observations.

Corresponding author address: Patrice Klein, Laboratoire de Physique des Océans, Plouzané, France. E-mail: pklein@ifremer.fr

Abstract

Following recent studies based on altimetric data, this paper analyses the spectral characteristics of the sea surface height (SSH) using a new realistic simulation of the North Pacific Ocean with high resolution ( in the horizontal and 100 vertical levels). This simulation resolves smaller scales (down to ≈10 km) than altimetric data (limited to 70 km because of the noise level). In high eddy kinetic energy (EKE) regions (as in the western part), SSH spectral slope almost follows a k−4 (with k the wavenumber) or slightly steeper law in agreement with altimeter studies. The new result is that, unlike altimeter studies, such a k−4 slope is also observed in low EKE regions (as in the eastern part). In these regions, this slope mostly concerns scales not well resolved by altimetric data. Such k−4 SSH spectral slopes are weaker from what is expected from quasigeostrophic turbulence theory but closer to surface quasigeostrophic (SQG) turbulence theory. The consequence is that the small scales concerned by these spectral slopes, in particular in low EKE regions, may significantly affect the larger ones because of the inverse kinetic energy cascade. These results need to be confirmed using a longer numerical integration. They also need to be corroborated by high-resolution observations.

Corresponding author address: Patrice Klein, Laboratoire de Physique des Océans, Plouzané, France. E-mail: pklein@ifremer.fr
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