7.4 Phase Speed Spectra of Ocean Mesoscale Eddies

Tuesday, 16 June 2015: 2:15 PM
Meridian Ballroom (The Commons Hotel)
Ryan P. Abernathey, Columbia University, Palisades, NY; and C. J. L. Wortham

This study investigates the observed spectral character of eddy heat fluxes near the ocean surface, focusing on the distribution in wavenumber and phase-speed space. Eddy heat fluxes in the Eastern Pacific are calculated from concurrent satellite sea-surface height and sea-surface temperature data. A high-resolution coupled climate model is also analyzed in order to verify the physical mechanisms involved and to validate the model against observations. At each latitude, wavenumber, frequency, and phase speed power spectra and cross spectra are constructed and presented as a function of latitude. These spectra reveal the dominance of coherent mesoscale eddies in both the length scale and phase speed of eddy heat fluxes. The breadth of the spectra are characterized via spectral moments; these moments show that the eddy fluxes are relatively concentrated around the dominant wavenumber and phase speed. Good agreement is found between the model and the observed spectra. The integrated heat transport and corresponding eddy diffusivity are shown to compare well with previous studies, but the results give a deeper insight into what determines the heat flux. Implications for eddy parameterization are discussed.
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