AbstractThis paper, the second of three, investigates submesoscale dynamics in the northern Gulf of Mexico under the influence of the Mississippi–Atchafalaya River system, using numerical simulations at 500-m horizontal resolution with climatological atmospheric forcing. The Turner angle Tu, a measure of the relative effect of temperature and salinity on density, is examined with respect to submesoscale current generation in runs with and without riverine forcing. Surface Tu probability density functions in solutions including rivers show a temperature-dominated signal offshore, associated with Loop Current water, and a nearshore salinity-dominated signal, associated with fresh river water, without a clear compensating signal, as often found instead in the ocean’s mixed layer. The corresponding probability distribution functions in the absence of rivers differ, illustrating the key role played by the freshwater output in determining temperature–salinity distributions in the northern Gulf of Mexico during both winter and summer. A quantity referred to as temperature–salinity covariance is proposed to determine what fraction of the available potential energy that is released during the generation of submesoscale circulations leads to the destruction of density gradients while leaving spice gradients untouched, thereby leading to compensation. It is shown that the fresh river fronts to the east of the Bird’s Foot can evolve toward compensation in concert with a gradual release of available potential energy. It is further demonstrated that, during winter, the cross-shelf freshwater transport mechanism to the west of the Bird’s Foot is well approximated by a diffusive process, whereas to the east is better represented by a ballistic process associated with the Mississippi water that converges in a jetlike pattern.
Journal of Physical Oceanography – American Meteorological Society
Published: Sep 27, 2017
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