Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 61–78 | Cite as

Lateral stirring of large-scale tracer fields by altimetry

  • Guillaume DencausseEmail author
  • Rosemary Morrow
  • Marine Rogé
  • Sara Fleury


Ocean surface fronts and filaments have a strong impact on the global ocean circulation and biogeochemistry. Surface Lagrangian advection with time-evolving altimetric geostrophic velocities can be used to simulate the submesoscale front and filament structures in large-scale tracer fields. We study this technique in the Southern Ocean region south of Tasmania, a domain marked by strong meso- to submesoscale features such as the fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Starting with large-scale surface tracer fields that we stir with altimetric velocities, we determine ‘advected’ fields which compare well with high-resolution in situ or satellite tracer data. We find that fine scales are best represented in a statistical sense after an optimal advection time of ∼2 weeks, with enhanced signatures of the ACC fronts and better spectral energy. The technique works best in moderate to high EKE regions where lateral advection dominates. This technique may be used to infer the distribution of unresolved small scales in any physical or biogeochemical surface tracer that is dominated by lateral advection. Submesoscale dynamics also impact the subsurface of the ocean, and the Lagrangian advection at depth shows promising results. Finally, we show that climatological tracer fields computed from the advected large-scale fields display improved fine-scale mean features, such as the ACC fronts, which can be useful in the context of ocean modelling.


Mesoscale Submesoscale Lagrangian advection Sea surface temperature Sea surface salinity Antarctic circumpolar current Oceanic fronts 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007–2013 under grant agreement n°283367 (MyOcean2). We gratefully acknowledge the help from Francesco D’Ovidio for the advection code and early assistance with the project. We are also indebted to Elodie Kestenare for her assistance with the SURVOSTRAL TSG data and matlab support, and to Renaud Dussurget of the CTOH/LEGOS for assistance with the altimeter data and code. Two anonymous reviewers also provided helpful and constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guillaume Dencausse
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rosemary Morrow
    • 1
  • Marine Rogé
    • 1
  • Sara Fleury
    • 1
  1. 1.LEGOSToulouseFrance

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