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Wind‐forced symmetric instability at a transient mid‐ocean front

Yu, Xiaolong; Naveira Garabato, Alberto C.; Martin, Adrien; Evans, Dafydd Gwyn; Su, Zhan. 2019 Wind‐forced symmetric instability at a transient mid‐ocean front. Geophysical Research Letters. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL084309 (In Press)

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Abstract/Summary

Mooring and glider observations and a high‐resolution satellite sea surface temperature image reveal features of a transient submesoscale front in a typical mid‐ocean region of the Northeast Atlantic. Analysis of the observations suggests that the front is forced by downfront winds and undergoes symmetric instability, resulting in elevated upper‐ocean kinetic energy, re‐stratification and turbulent dissipation. The instability is triggered as downfront winds act on weak upper‐ocean vertical stratification and strong lateral stratification produced by mesoscale frontogenesis. The instability's estimated rate of kinetic energy extraction from the front accounts for the difference between the measured rate of turbulent dissipation and the predicted contribution from one‐dimensional scalings of buoyancy‐ and wind‐driven turbulence, indicating that the instability underpins the enhanced dissipation. These results provide direct evidence of the occurrence of symmetric instability in a quiescent open‐ocean environment, and highlight the need to represent the instability's re‐stratification and dissipative effects in climate‐scale ocean models.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL084309
ISSN: 0094-8276
Date made live: 11 Oct 2019 10:36 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/525367

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