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Observations of Submesoscale Variability and Frontal Subduction within the Mesoscale Eddy Field of the Tasman Sea

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  • 1 School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2 School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Climate Change Research Centre, and Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 3 California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
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Abstract

Submesoscale lenses of water with anomalous hydrographic properties have previously been observed in the East Australian Current (EAC) system, embedded within the thermocline of mesoscale anticyclonic eddies. The waters within these lenses have high oxygen content and temperature–salinity properties that signify a surface origin. However, it is not known how these lenses form. This study presents field observations that provide insight into a possible generation mechanism via subduction at upper-ocean fronts. High-resolution hydrographic and velocity measurements of submesoscale activity were taken across a front between a mesoscale eddy dipole downstream of the EAC separation point. The front had O(1) Rossby number, strong vertical shear, and flow conducive to symmetric instability. Frontogenesis was measured in conjunction with subduction of an anticyclonic water parcel, indicative of intrathermocline eddy formation. Twenty-five years of satellite imagery reveals the existence of strong mesoscale strain coupled with strong temperature fronts in this region and indicates the conditions that led to frontal subduction observed here are a persistent feature. These processes impact the vertical export of tracers from the surface and dissipation of mesoscale kinetic energy, implicating their importance for understanding regional ocean circulation and biological productivity.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-19-0131.s1.

© 2020 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: Matthew Archer, matthew.robert.archer@gmail.com

Abstract

Submesoscale lenses of water with anomalous hydrographic properties have previously been observed in the East Australian Current (EAC) system, embedded within the thermocline of mesoscale anticyclonic eddies. The waters within these lenses have high oxygen content and temperature–salinity properties that signify a surface origin. However, it is not known how these lenses form. This study presents field observations that provide insight into a possible generation mechanism via subduction at upper-ocean fronts. High-resolution hydrographic and velocity measurements of submesoscale activity were taken across a front between a mesoscale eddy dipole downstream of the EAC separation point. The front had O(1) Rossby number, strong vertical shear, and flow conducive to symmetric instability. Frontogenesis was measured in conjunction with subduction of an anticyclonic water parcel, indicative of intrathermocline eddy formation. Twenty-five years of satellite imagery reveals the existence of strong mesoscale strain coupled with strong temperature fronts in this region and indicates the conditions that led to frontal subduction observed here are a persistent feature. These processes impact the vertical export of tracers from the surface and dissipation of mesoscale kinetic energy, implicating their importance for understanding regional ocean circulation and biological productivity.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-19-0131.s1.

© 2020 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: Matthew Archer, matthew.robert.archer@gmail.com

Supplementary Materials

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