Interpreting Energy and Tracer Spectra of Upper-Ocean Turbulence in the Submesoscale Range (1–200 km)

(Callies, Jörn and Ferrari, Raffaele), Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 43, pp. pages, 2013.


AbstractSubmesoscale (1–200 km) wavenumber spectra of kinetic and potential energy and tracer variance are obtained from in-situ observations in the Gulf Stream region and in the eastern subtropical North Pacific. In the Gulf Stream region, steep kinetic-energy spectra at scales between 200 km and 20 km are consistent with predictions of interior quasi-gesotrophic turbulence theory, both in the mixed layer and in the thermocline. At scales below 20 km, the spectra flatten out, consistent with a growing contribution of internal-wave energy at small scales. In the subtropical North Pacific, the energy spectra are flatter and inconsistent with predictions of interior quasi-geostrophic turbulence theory. The observed spectra and their dependence on depth are also inconsistent with predictions of surface quasi-geostrophic turbulence theory for the observed ocean stratification. It appears that unbalanced motions, most likely internal tides, dominate the energy spectrum throughout the submesoscale range. Spectr…

doi = 10.1175/JPO-D-13-063.1

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