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Momentum Governors of California Undercurrent Transport

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  • 1 a School of Marine Science and Technology, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China
  • | 2 b Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • | 3 c LEGOS, University of Toulouse, IRD, CNRS, CNES, UPS, Toulouse, France
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Abstract

The California Undercurrent (CUC) transport, with significant variability ranging from weeks to decades, has consequences for both the climate and biogeochemistry of the California Current system. This study evaluates the governors of the CUC transport and its temporal variability from a momentum perspective, using a mesoscale-resolving regional model. From a 16-yr mean perspective, the along-isobath pressure gradient acts to accelerate the CUC, whereas eddy advection retards it. The topographic form stress, which is part of the volume integrated along-isobath pressure gradient, not only acts in the direction of the time-mean CUC, but also greatly modulates the temporal variability of the CUC transport. This temporal variability is also correlated with the eddy momentum advection. The eddy stress plays a role in transferring both the equatorward wind stress and poleward CUC momentum downward. A theory is formulated to show that, in addition to the conventional vertical redistribution of momentum, the eddy stress can also redistribute momentum horizontally in the area where the correlation between the pressure anomaly and isopycnal fluctuations has large spatial variability.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Ru Chen, ruchen@alum.mit.edu

Abstract

The California Undercurrent (CUC) transport, with significant variability ranging from weeks to decades, has consequences for both the climate and biogeochemistry of the California Current system. This study evaluates the governors of the CUC transport and its temporal variability from a momentum perspective, using a mesoscale-resolving regional model. From a 16-yr mean perspective, the along-isobath pressure gradient acts to accelerate the CUC, whereas eddy advection retards it. The topographic form stress, which is part of the volume integrated along-isobath pressure gradient, not only acts in the direction of the time-mean CUC, but also greatly modulates the temporal variability of the CUC transport. This temporal variability is also correlated with the eddy momentum advection. The eddy stress plays a role in transferring both the equatorward wind stress and poleward CUC momentum downward. A theory is formulated to show that, in addition to the conventional vertical redistribution of momentum, the eddy stress can also redistribute momentum horizontally in the area where the correlation between the pressure anomaly and isopycnal fluctuations has large spatial variability.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Ru Chen, ruchen@alum.mit.edu
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