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Separating Energetic Internal Gravity Waves and Small-Scale Frontal Dynamics

Torres, Hector S. and Klein, Patrice and D'Asaro, Eric and Wang, Jinbo and Thompson, Andrew F. and Siegelman, Lia and Menemenlis, Dimitris and Rodriguez, Ernesto and Wineteer, Alexander and Perkovic-Martin, Dragana (2022) Separating Energetic Internal Gravity Waves and Small-Scale Frontal Dynamics. Geophysical Research Letters, 49 (6). Art. No. e2021GL096249. ISSN 0094-8276. doi:10.1029/2021gl096249.

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Oceanic fronts with lateral scales less than 20 km are now known to be one of the major contributors to vertical heat fluxes in the global ocean, which highlights their potential impact on Earth's climate. However, frontal dynamics with time scales less than 1 day, whose contribution to vertical heat fluxes is thought to be significant, are obscured by energetic internal gravity waves (IGWs). In this study, we address this critical issue by separating IGWs and frontal dynamics using an approach based on their respective vertical scales of variability. Results using a numerical model with a horizontal grid spacing of 500 m confirm that it is possible to recover frontal dynamics at short time scales as well as associated intense vertical velocities and vertical heat fluxes. This opens up new possibilities for a more accurate estimation of the vertical exchanges of any tracers between the surface and the ocean interior.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemMBARI-M2 mooring data ItemModel output from global 1/48◦ MITgcm simulation ItemModel data analyzed in337this paper
Torres, Hector S.0000-0003-2098-8012
Klein, Patrice0000-0002-3089-3896
D'Asaro, Eric0000-0002-8453-854X
Wang, Jinbo0000-0001-5034-5566
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Siegelman, Lia0000-0003-3330-082X
Menemenlis, Dimitris0000-0001-9940-8409
Rodriguez, Ernesto0000-0003-3315-4578
Wineteer, Alexander0000-0002-2492-5492
Perkovic-Martin, Dragana0000-0003-2647-6659
Additional Information:© 2022 American Geophysical Union. Issue Online: 15 March 2022; Version of Record online: 15 March 2022; Accepted manuscript online: 01 March 2022; Manuscript accepted: 18 February 2022; Manuscript revised: 16 February 2022; Manuscript received: 30 September 2021. This work was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under prime contract with NASA (80NM0018D0004), and was awarded under NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NNH17ZDA001N-EVS3, Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES-2017), Appendix A.34: Earth Venture Suborbital-3; NASA Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (NASA S-MODE). Copyright 2021 California Institute of Technology. US government sponsorship acknowledged. P. Klein acknowledges support from the SWOT Science Team, the NASA S-Mode project and the QuickSCat mission. E. D'Asaro was supported by NASA Award Number, 80NSSC19K1007. A. F. Thompson was supported by the NASA S-MODE project and PDRDF funding from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. L. Siegelman acknowledges the generous support of the Scripps Institutional Postdoctoral Program. D. Menemenlis was supported by S-MODE and by the NASA Physical Oceanography (PO) and Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction (MAP) programs. High-end computing were provided by the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at the Ames Research Center. This study has been much inspired and motivated by the S-MODE project and the DopplerScatt instrument. H. S. Torres. ran the high-resolution CCS simulation. H. S. Torres and P.Klein led the data analysis and data interpretation and drafted the manuscript. The main original idea of this study was proposed by E. D'Asaro. All authors contributed to the scientific interpretation of the results and reviewed the manuscript. We thank Shane Keating and the other anonymous reviewer for their insightful comments and suggestions that helped to clarify our results. Data Availability Statement: The MBARI-M2 mooring data were collected and made freely available ( by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. High-end computing resources were provided by the NASA Advanced Supercomputer (NAS) Division at the Ames Research Center. Model output from global 1/48° MITgcm simulation (known as LLC4320) is freely available online ( Model data analyzed in this paper are also freely available online (
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Scripps Institution of OceanographyUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:balanced motions; submesoscale; internal gravity waves; California Current System
Issue or Number:6
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220304-60801000
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Official Citation:Torres, H. S., Klein, P., D’Asaro, E., Wang, J., Thompson, A. F., Siegelman, L., et al. (2022). Separating energetic internal gravity waves and small-scale frontal dynamics. Geophysical Research Letters, 49, e2021GL096249.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:113747
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:07 Mar 2022 20:12
Last Modified:22 Mar 2022 20:38

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