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Jean Clary, Louis-Philippe Nadeau, and Cédric Chavanne


The ocean’s inverse cascade of energy from small to large scales has been confirmed from satellite altimetry for scales larger than 100 km. However, measurements of the direct energy cascade to smaller scales have remained difficult to obtain. Here, the possibility of estimating these energy transfers to smaller scales from observations by high-frequency radars is investigated using numerical simulations. Synthetic measurements are first extracted from a quasigeostrophic simulation of freely decaying turbulence for which the reference energy flux is characterized by the transition from positive to negative values. Fluxes obtained from synthetic data are compared to this reference flux in order to assess the robustness to various measurement limitations. The geometry of the observational domain (nonperiodicity, domain size, and aspect ratio) affects mostly large scales, while the spatial resolution of the instruments affects mostly small scales. In contrast, measurement noise and missing data affect both large and small scales. Despite resulting in significant biases in the amplitude of the fluxes, the transition scale between the positive and negative fluxes is relatively robust to measurement limitations. These results are also confirmed using a simulation from a primitive-equations model in a realistic coastal geometry.

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