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Submesoscale Dynamics in the Upper Ocean

Taylor, John R. and Thompson, Andrew F. (2023) Submesoscale Dynamics in the Upper Ocean. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, 55 . pp. 103-127. ISSN 0066-4189. doi:10.1146/annurev-fluid-031422-095147.

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Oceanic motions with spatial scales of 200 m–20 km, called submesoscales, are ubiquitous in the upper ocean and serve as a key intermediary between larger-scale balanced dynamics and unbalanced turbulence. Here, we introduce the fluid dynamics of submesoscales and contrast them with motions at larger and smaller scales. We summarize the various ways in which submesoscales develop due to instabilities that extract potential or kinetic energy from larger-scale balanced currents; some instabilities have counterparts at larger scales, while others are distinct to the submesoscale regime. Submesoscales modify the density stratification in the upper ocean and redistribute energy between scales. These energy transfers are complex, having both up-scale and down-scale components. Submesoscale eddies and fronts also contribute to a spatially heterogeneous distribution of shear and restratification that leave an imprint on upper ocean turbulence. The impact of submesoscales on the Earth's climate remains an exciting research frontier.

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Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Additional Information:© 2023 by the author(s). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See credit lines of images or other third-party material in this article for license information. The authors are grateful to Baylor Fox-Kemper and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments and suggestions. The authors are not aware of any biases that might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.
Group:Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20230207-728273600.13
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:119089
Deposited By: Research Services Depository
Deposited On:14 Mar 2023 23:32
Last Modified:14 Mar 2023 23:32

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