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Diurnal Evolution of Submesoscale Front and Filament Circulations

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
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Abstract

The local circulation of submesoscale fronts and filaments can be partly understood through a horizontal momentum balance of Coriolis, a horizontal pressure gradient, and vertical diffusivity in a turbulent boundary layer, known as the turbulent thermal wind balance (TTW or T2W). T2W often reproduces the instantaneous relative vorticity and divergence of submesoscale circulations in open-ocean and shelf settings. However, a diurnal cycle in submesoscale vorticity and divergence is characterized by a non-T2W phasing: a maximum in divergence magnitude lags the maximum in vertical diffusivity (with vorticity lagging divergence). Here, an idealized model is used to solve the transient turbulent thermal wind (T3W) equations and to investigate the diurnal evolution of front and filament circulation in a 2D plane. Relative to a steady-state circulation, transient evolution can cause both instantaneous strengthening and a weaker diurnal average of the secondary circulation. The primary mechanisms controlling the diurnal variability exist in a 1D Ekman layer that imprints onto the 2D circulation. In midlatitudes, acceleration during separate phases of the diurnal cycle (from night to day and from day to night) is dominated by distinct inertial oscillation and vertically diffusive mechanisms, respectively. However, the manifestation of these dual accelerations is sensitive to latitude, boundary layer depth, and the strength of the forcing. A simple 1D model predicts the diurnal phasing of submesoscale divergence and vorticity in realistic primitive equation simulations of the southwestern Pacific and coastal California.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-18-0143.s1.

Corresponding author: Daniel P. Dauhajre, ddauhajre@atmos.ucla.edu

Abstract

The local circulation of submesoscale fronts and filaments can be partly understood through a horizontal momentum balance of Coriolis, a horizontal pressure gradient, and vertical diffusivity in a turbulent boundary layer, known as the turbulent thermal wind balance (TTW or T2W). T2W often reproduces the instantaneous relative vorticity and divergence of submesoscale circulations in open-ocean and shelf settings. However, a diurnal cycle in submesoscale vorticity and divergence is characterized by a non-T2W phasing: a maximum in divergence magnitude lags the maximum in vertical diffusivity (with vorticity lagging divergence). Here, an idealized model is used to solve the transient turbulent thermal wind (T3W) equations and to investigate the diurnal evolution of front and filament circulation in a 2D plane. Relative to a steady-state circulation, transient evolution can cause both instantaneous strengthening and a weaker diurnal average of the secondary circulation. The primary mechanisms controlling the diurnal variability exist in a 1D Ekman layer that imprints onto the 2D circulation. In midlatitudes, acceleration during separate phases of the diurnal cycle (from night to day and from day to night) is dominated by distinct inertial oscillation and vertically diffusive mechanisms, respectively. However, the manifestation of these dual accelerations is sensitive to latitude, boundary layer depth, and the strength of the forcing. A simple 1D model predicts the diurnal phasing of submesoscale divergence and vorticity in realistic primitive equation simulations of the southwestern Pacific and coastal California.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-18-0143.s1.

Corresponding author: Daniel P. Dauhajre, ddauhajre@atmos.ucla.edu

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