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Zhendong Hu
,
Hongyang Lin
,
Zhiyu Liu
,
Zhiyong Cao
,
Fangtao Zhang
,
Zongpei Jiang
,
Yao Zhang
,
Kuanbo Zhou
, and
Minhan Dai

Abstract

Oceanic submesoscale flows are considered to be a crucial conduit for the downscale transfer of oceanic mesoscale kinetic energy and upper-ocean material exchange, both laterally and vertically, but defining observations revealing submesoscale dynamics and/or transport properties remain sparse. Here, we report on an elaborate observation of a warm and fresh filament intruding into a cyclonic mesoscale eddy. By integrating cruise measurements, satellite observations, particle-tracking simulations, and the trajectory of a surface drifter, we show that the filament originated from an anticyclonic eddy immediately to the west of the cyclonic eddy, and the evolution of the filament was mainly due to the geostrophic flows associated with the eddy pair. Our observations reveal the mass exchange of the eddy pair and suggest that submesoscale flows can degrade the coherence of mesoscale eddies, providing important implications for the transport properties of mesoscale eddies. Vigorous submesoscale turbulence was found within the eddy core region, due to filamentous intrusion and frontogenesis. Our findings have thus offered novel insights into the dynamics and transport properties of oceanic submesoscale flows, which should be taken into account in their simulation and parameterization in ocean and climate models.

Significance Statement

Mesoscale eddies, with a spatial scale from tens to hundreds of kilometers, are ubiquitous in the global ocean. Carrying the largest proportion of oceanic kinetic energy, mesoscale eddies play a key role in ocean dynamics and have important applications for marine biology. Although mesoscale eddies have been studied extensively over the past decades, there are two major issues that remain inconclusive: (i) How do mesoscale eddies dissipate? (ii) Can eddies coherently trap waters when moving over a long distance? Recent studies, mostly through computer simulations, suggest that oceanic submesoscale processes, with a typical scale of a few kilometers, are highly relevant to the above two issues. This study presents a rare observation of a filament intruding into a cyclonic eddy. Because of this filament intrusion, submesoscale activities are enhanced near the eddy core area, in contrast to previous observations that normally suggest weaker submesoscale activities in the eddy core area than at eddy peripheries. Such dedicated process-oriented observations provide unique opportunities for better understanding the dynamics and transport properties of mesoscale eddies and submesoscale processes.

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Molly Baringer
,
Mariana B. Bif
,
Tim Boyer
,
Seth M. Bushinsky
,
Brendan R. Carter
,
Ivona Cetinić
,
Don P. Chambers
,
Lijing Cheng
,
Sanai Chiba
,
Minhan Dai
,
Catia M. Domingues
,
Shenfu Dong
,
Andrea J. Fassbender
,
Richard A. Feely
,
Eleanor Frajka-Williams
,
Bryan A. Franz
,
John Gilson
,
Gustavo Goni
,
Benjamin D. Hamlington
,
Zeng-Zhen Hu
,
Boyin Huang
,
Masayoshi Ishii
,
Svetlana Jevrejeva
,
William E. Johns
,
Gregory C. Johnson
,
Kenneth S. Johnson
,
John Kennedy
,
Marion Kersalé
,
Rachel E. Killick
,
Peter Landschützer
,
Matthias Lankhorst
,
Tong Lee
,
Eric Leuliette
,
Feili Li
,
Eric Lindstrom
,
Ricardo Locarnini
,
Susan Lozier
,
John M. Lyman
,
John J. Marra
,
Christopher S. Meinen
,
Mark A. Merrifield
,
Gary T. Mitchum
,
Ben Moat
,
Didier Monselesan
,
R. Steven Nerem
,
Renellys C. Perez
,
Sarah G. Purkey
,
Darren Rayner
,
James Reagan
,
Nicholas Rome
,
Alejandra Sanchez-Franks
,
Claudia Schmid
,
Joel P. Scott
,
Uwe Send
,
David A. Siegel
,
David A. Smeed
,
Sabrina Speich
,
Paul W. Stackhouse Jr.
,
William Sweet
,
Yuichiro Takeshita
,
Philip R. Thompson
,
Joaquin A. Triñanes
,
Martin Visbeck
,
Denis L. Volkov
,
Rik Wanninkhof
,
Robert A. Weller
,
Toby K. Westberry
,
Matthew J. Widlansky
,
Susan E. Wijffels
,
Anne C. Wilber
,
Lisan Yu
,
Weidong Yu
, and
Huai-Min Zhang
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