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Seasonal oceanic variability on meso- and submesoscales: a turbulence perspective

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Seasonal variability of the upper ocean on meso- and submesoscales is investigated in the framework of the quasi-normal scale elimination theory, or QNSE. The longitudinal and transverse velocity spectra in this theory have a bi-component structure comprised of the Coriolis and Kolmogorov-like branches that are identified with meso- and submesoscales, respectively. For the former, spectral amplitudes are determined by the Coriolis parameter, f, while for the latter, the amplitudes are quantified in terms of the energy flux, πε, proceeding from larger to smaller scales. This flux can be identified with the effective submesoscale dissipation. The Kolmogorov and Coriolis subranges are delineated at a length scale Lc that marks a crossover between the respective spectra. The theoretical spectra agree well with those obtained in many observational campaigns. In phase with the seasonal variations of the intensities of instabilities and turbulence, the magnitudes of πε and Lc increase in winter and decrease in summer. Mirroring these changes, the bi-component structure of the kinetic energy spectra changes with seasons and renders meaningless the characterization of their seasonal variability in terms of a single slope. The theoretical results are validated against the data collected in Oleander, LatMix and North-Western Pacific observations.

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This paper is partially based upon the presentation at the 11th International Workshop on Modeling the Ocean (IWMO2019) held in Wuxi, China, on June 17–20, 2019. Discussions with Leo Oey, Dong-Ping Wang, Fanghua Xu, Huijie Xue, Tal Ezer, Claude Cambon, Don Chambers, James Cho, Greg King, Stefania Espa, Simon Cabanes, Peter Read, Jinbo Wang, Dimitris Menemenlis and Lee-Lueng Fu are greatly appreciated.


Partial funding was provided by the NASA/NOAA Ocean Surface Topography Science Team. BG received partial support through a University of South Florida Nexus Initiative (UNI) Award. SS received partial support from the Israel Science Foundation grant no. 408/15. BQ received support from NASA Grant NNX17AH33G.

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Correspondence to Boris Galperin.

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Responsible Editor: Zhiyu Liu

This article is part of the Topical Collection on the 11th International Workshop on Modeling the Ocean (IWMO), Wuxi, China, 17-20 June 2019

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Galperin, B., Sukoriansky, S. & Qiu, B. Seasonal oceanic variability on meso- and submesoscales: a turbulence perspective. Ocean Dynamics 71, 475–489 (2021).

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