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Andrew M. Moore, Hernan G. Arango, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, Arthur J. Miller, and Bruce D. Cornuelle

Abstract

Adjoint methods of sensitivity analysis were applied to the California Current using the Regional Ocean Modeling Systems (ROMS) with medium resolution, aimed at diagnosing the circulation sensitivity to variations in surface forcing. The sensitivities of coastal variations in SST, eddy kinetic energy, and baroclinic instability of complex time-evolving flows were quantified. Each aspect of the circulation exhibits significant interannual and seasonal variations in sensitivity controlled by mesoscale circulation features. Central California SST is equally sensitive to wind stress and surface heat flux, but less so to wind stress curl, displaying the greatest sensitivity when upwelling-favorable winds are relaxing and the least sensitivity during the peak of upwelling. SST sensitivity is typically 2–4 times larger during summer than during spring, although larger variations occur during some years.

The sensitivity of central coast eddy kinetic energy to surface forcing is constant on average throughout the year. Perturbations in the wind that align with mesoscale eddies to enhance the strength of the circulation by local Ekman pumping yield the greatest sensitivities.

The sensitivity of the potential for baroclinic instability is greatest when nearshore horizontal temperature gradients are largest, and it is associated with variations in wind stress concentrated along the core of the California Current. The sensitivity varies by a factor of ∼1.5 throughout the year. A new and important aspect of this work is identification of the complex flow dependence and seasonal dependence of the sensitivity of the ROMS California Current System (CCS) circulation to variations in surface forcing that was hitherto not previously appreciated.

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