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Dampening of Submesoscale Currents by Air-Sea Stress Coupling in the Californian Upwelling System

Abstract : Oceanic submesoscale currents (SMCs) occur on an scale of 0.1-10 km horizontally and have a large influence on the oceanic variability and on ecosystems. At the mesoscale (10-250 km), oceanic thermal and current feedbacks are known to have a significant influence on the atmosphere and on oceanic dynamics. However, air-sea interactions at the submesoscale are not well known because the small size of SMCs presents observational and simulation barriers. Using high-resolution coupled oceanic and atmospheric models for the Central California region during the upwelling season, we show that the current feedback acting through the surface stress dominates the thermal feedback effect on the ocean and dampens the SMC variability by ≈17% ± 4%. As for the mesoscale, the current feedback induces an ocean sink of energy at the SMCs and a source of atmospheric energy that is related to induced Ekman pumping velocities. However, those additional vertical velocities also cause an increase of the injection of energy by baroclinic conversion into the SMCs, partially counteracting the sink of energy by the stress coupling. These stress coupling effects have important implications in understanding SMC variability and its links with the atmosphere and should be tested in other regions.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 17, 2022 - 5:09:10 PM
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Lionel Renault, James C. Mcwilliams, Jonathan Gula. Dampening of Submesoscale Currents by Air-Sea Stress Coupling in the Californian Upwelling System. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2018, 8, ⟨10.1038/s41598-018-31602-3⟩. ⟨insu-03670735⟩

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