Seasonality of submesoscale flows in the ocean surface boundary layer

Buckingham, Christian, Naveira Garabato, Alberto C., Thompson, Andrew, Brannigan, Liam, Lazar, Ayah, Marshall, David P., Nurser, A. J. George, Damerell, Gillian ORCID:, Heywood, Karen ORCID: and Belcher, Stephen E. (2016) Seasonality of submesoscale flows in the ocean surface boundary layer. Geophysical Research Letters, 43 (5). 2118–2126. ISSN 0094-8276

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A signature of submesoscale flows in the upper ocean is skewness in the distribution of relative vorticity. Expected to result for high Rossby-number flows, such skewness has implications for mixing, dissipation and stratification within the upper ocean. An array of moorings deployed in the Northeast Atlantic for one year as part of the OSMOSIS experiment reveals that relative vorticity is positively skewed during winter even though the scale of the Rossby number is less than 0.5. Furthermore, this skewness is reduced to zero during spring and autumn. There is also evidence of modest seasonal variations in the gradient Rossby number. The proposed mechanism by which relative vorticity is skewed is that the ratio of lateral to vertical buoyancy gradients, as summarized by the inverse gradient Richardson number, restricts its range during winter but less so at other times of the year. These results support recent observations and model simulations suggesting the upper ocean is host to a seasonal cycle in submesoscale turbulence.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: ©2016. The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2016 18:00
Last Modified: 17 May 2024 01:22
DOI: 10.1002/2016GL068009


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