AbstractThe transition scale Lt from balanced geostrophic motions to unbalanced wave motions, including near-inertial flows, internal tides and inertia-gravity wave continuum, is explored using the output from a global 1/48° horizontal resolution MITgcm simulation. Defined as the wavelength with equal balanced and unbalanced motion kinetic energy (KE) spectral density, Lt is detected to be geographically highly inhomogeneous: it falls below 40 km in the western boundary current and Antarctic Circumpolar Current regions, increases to 40- 100 km in the interior subtropical and subpolar gyres, and exceeds, in general, 200 km in the tropical oceans. With the exception of the Pacific and Indian sectors of the Southern Ocean, the seasonal KE uctuations of the surface balanced and unbalanced motions are out-of phase due to occurrence of mixed layer instability in winter and trapping of unbalanced motion KE in shallow mixed layer in summer. The combined effect of these seasonal changes renders Lt to be < 20 km during winter in 80% of the Northern Hemisphere oceans between 25°-45°N and all of the Southern-Hemisphere oceans south of 25°S. The transition scale’s geographical and seasonal changes are highly relevant to the forthcoming Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. To improve the detection of balanced submesoscale signals from SWOT, especially in the tropical oceans, efforts to remove stationary internal tidal signals are called for.
Journal of Physical Oceanography – American Meteorological Society
Published: Jan 26, 2018
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