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Mesoscale Eddy Buoyancy Flux and Eddy-Induced Circulation in Eastern Boundary Currents

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  • 1 Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • | 2 Laboratoire de Physique des Oceans, Ifremer, Plouzane, France
  • | 3 Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • | 4 Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
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Abstract

A dynamical interpretation is made of the mesoscale eddy buoyancy fluxes in the Eastern Boundary Currents off California and Peru–Chile, based on regional equilibrium simulations. The eddy fluxes are primarily shoreward and upward across a swath several hundred kilometers wide in the upper ocean; as such they serve to balance mean offshore air–sea heating and coastal upwelling. In the stratified interior the eddy fluxes are consistent with the adiabatic hypothesis associated with a mean eddy-induced velocity advecting mean buoyancy and tracers. Furthermore, with a suitable gauge choice, the horizontal fluxes are almost entirely aligned with the mean horizontal buoyancy gradient, consistent with the advective parameterization scheme of Gent and McWilliams. The associated diffusivity κ is surface intensified, matching the vertical stratification profile. The fluxes span the across-shore band of high eddy energy, but their alongshore structure is unresolved because of sampling limitations. In the surface layer the eddy flux is significantly diabatic with a shallow eddy-induced circulation cell and downgradient lateral diapycnal flux. The dominant eddy generation process is baroclinic instability, but there are significant regional differences between the upwelling systems in the flux and κ that are not consistent with simple instability theory.

Corresponding author address: Francois Colas, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095. E-mail: francois@atmos.ucla.edu

Abstract

A dynamical interpretation is made of the mesoscale eddy buoyancy fluxes in the Eastern Boundary Currents off California and Peru–Chile, based on regional equilibrium simulations. The eddy fluxes are primarily shoreward and upward across a swath several hundred kilometers wide in the upper ocean; as such they serve to balance mean offshore air–sea heating and coastal upwelling. In the stratified interior the eddy fluxes are consistent with the adiabatic hypothesis associated with a mean eddy-induced velocity advecting mean buoyancy and tracers. Furthermore, with a suitable gauge choice, the horizontal fluxes are almost entirely aligned with the mean horizontal buoyancy gradient, consistent with the advective parameterization scheme of Gent and McWilliams. The associated diffusivity κ is surface intensified, matching the vertical stratification profile. The fluxes span the across-shore band of high eddy energy, but their alongshore structure is unresolved because of sampling limitations. In the surface layer the eddy flux is significantly diabatic with a shallow eddy-induced circulation cell and downgradient lateral diapycnal flux. The dominant eddy generation process is baroclinic instability, but there are significant regional differences between the upwelling systems in the flux and κ that are not consistent with simple instability theory.

Corresponding author address: Francois Colas, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095. E-mail: francois@atmos.ucla.edu
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