Submesoscale instabilities in mesoscale eddies

Brannigan, Liam; Marshall, David P.; Naveira Garabato, Alberto C.; Nurser, A.J. George; Kaiser, Jan. 2017 Submesoscale instabilities in mesoscale eddies. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 47 (12). 3061-3085.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
Text (Open Access paper)
© Copyright 2017 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a website or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. All AMS journals and monograph publications are registered with the Copyright Clearance Center ( Questions about permission to use materials for which AMS holds the copyright can also be directed to the AMS Permissions Officer at Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy statement, available on the AMS website (
jpo-d-16-0178.1.pdf - Published Version

Download (4MB) | Preview


Submesoscale processes have been extensively studied in observations and simulations of fronts. Recent idealized simulations show that submesoscale instabilities also occur in baroclinic mesoscale cyclones and anticyclones. The instabilities in the anticyclone grow faster and at coarser grid resolution than in the cyclone. The instabilities lead to larger restratification in the anticyclone than in the cyclone. The instabilities also lead to changes in the mean azimuthal jet around the anticyclone from 2-km resolution, but a similar effect only occurs in the cyclone at 0.25-km resolution. A numerical passive tracer experiment shows that submesoscale instabilities lead to deeper subduction in the interior of anticyclonic than cyclonic eddies because of outcropping isopycnals extending deeper into the thermocline in anticyclones. An energetic analysis suggests that both vertical shear production and vertical buoyancy fluxes are important in anticyclones but primarily vertical buoyancy fluxes occur in cyclones at these resolutions. The energy sources and sinks vary azimuthally around the eddies caused by the asymmetric effects of the Ekman buoyancy flux. Glider transects of a mesoscale anticyclone in the Tasman Sea show that water with low stratification and high oxygen concentrations is found in an anticyclone, in a manner that may be consistent with the model predictions for submesoscale subduction in mesoscale eddies.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0022-3670
Date made live: 25 Jan 2018 11:08 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...