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Journal Articles Journal of Physical Oceanography Year : 2016

Intensification of Upper-Ocean Submesoscale Turbulence through Charney Baroclinic Instability

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Abstract

This study focuses on the description of an oceanic variant of the Charney baroclinic instability, arising from the joint presence of (i) an equatorward buoyancy gradient that extends from the surface into the ocean interior and (ii) reduced subsurface stratification, for example, as produced by wintertime convection or subduction. This study analyzes forced dissipative simulations with and without Charney baroclinic instability (C-BCI). In the former, C-BCI strengthens near-surface frontal activity with important consequences in terms of turbulent statistics: increased variance of vertical vorticity and velocity and increased vertical turbulent fluxes. Energetic consequences are explored. Despite the atypical enhancement of submesoscale activity in the simulation subjected to C-BCI, and contrary to several recent studies, the downscale energy flux at the submesoscale en route to dissipation remains modest in the flow energetic equilibration. In particular, it is modest vis à vis the global energy input to the system, the eddy kinetic energy input through conversion of available potential energy, and the classical inverse cascade of kinetic energy. Linear stability analysis suggests that the southern flank of the Gulf Stream may be conducive to oceanic Charney baroclinic instability in spring, following mode water formation and upper-ocean destratification.
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Dates and versions

hal-01455396 , version 1 (07-02-2017)

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Xavier Capet, Guillaume Roullet, Patrice Klein, Guillaume Maze. Intensification of Upper-Ocean Submesoscale Turbulence through Charney Baroclinic Instability. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 2016, 46, pp.3365 - 3384. ⟨10.1175/JPO-D-16-0050.1⟩. ⟨hal-01455396⟩
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