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Eddy Shape, Orientation, Propagation, and Mean Flow Feedback in Western Boundary Current Jets

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  • 1 Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom
  • | 2 Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College, London, and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
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Abstract

This manuscript revisits a study of eddy–mean flow interactions in an idealized model of a western boundary current extension jet using properties of the horizontal velocity correlation tensor to diagnose characteristics of average eddy shape, orientation, propagation, and mean flow feedback. These eddy characteristics are then used to provide a new description of the eddy–mean flow interactions observed in terms of different ingredients of the eddy motion. The diagnostics show patterns in average eddy shape, orientation, and propagation that are consistent with the signatures of jet instability in the upstream region and wave radiation in the downstream region. Together they give a feedback onto the mean flow that gives the downstream character of the jet and drives the jet's recirculation gyres. A breakdown of the eddy forcing into contributions from individual terms confirms the expected role of cross-jet gradients in meridional eddy tilt in stabilizing the jet to its barotropic instability; however, it also reveals important roles played by the along-jet evolution of eddy zonal–meridional elongation. It is the mean flow forcing derived from these patterns that acts to strengthen and extend the jet downstream and forces the time-mean recirculation gyres. This understanding of the dependence of mean flow forcing on eddy structural properties suggests that failure to adequately resolve eddy elongation could underlie the weakened jet strength, extent, and changed recirculation structure seen in this idealized model for reduced spatial resolutions. Further, it may suggest new ideas for the parameterization of this forcing.

Current affiliation: Climate Change Research Centre and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Corresponding author address: Stephanie Waterman, Climate Change Research Centre, Level 4, Mathews Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia. E-mail: snw@alum.mit.edu

Abstract

This manuscript revisits a study of eddy–mean flow interactions in an idealized model of a western boundary current extension jet using properties of the horizontal velocity correlation tensor to diagnose characteristics of average eddy shape, orientation, propagation, and mean flow feedback. These eddy characteristics are then used to provide a new description of the eddy–mean flow interactions observed in terms of different ingredients of the eddy motion. The diagnostics show patterns in average eddy shape, orientation, and propagation that are consistent with the signatures of jet instability in the upstream region and wave radiation in the downstream region. Together they give a feedback onto the mean flow that gives the downstream character of the jet and drives the jet's recirculation gyres. A breakdown of the eddy forcing into contributions from individual terms confirms the expected role of cross-jet gradients in meridional eddy tilt in stabilizing the jet to its barotropic instability; however, it also reveals important roles played by the along-jet evolution of eddy zonal–meridional elongation. It is the mean flow forcing derived from these patterns that acts to strengthen and extend the jet downstream and forces the time-mean recirculation gyres. This understanding of the dependence of mean flow forcing on eddy structural properties suggests that failure to adequately resolve eddy elongation could underlie the weakened jet strength, extent, and changed recirculation structure seen in this idealized model for reduced spatial resolutions. Further, it may suggest new ideas for the parameterization of this forcing.

Current affiliation: Climate Change Research Centre and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Corresponding author address: Stephanie Waterman, Climate Change Research Centre, Level 4, Mathews Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia. E-mail: snw@alum.mit.edu
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