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Global estimates of the energy transfer from the wind to the ocean, with emphasis on near-inertial oscillations

Flexas, M. Mar and Thompson, Andrew F. and Torres, Hector S. and Klein, Patrice and Farrar, J. Thomas and Zhang, Hong and Menemenlis, Dimitris (2019) Global estimates of the energy transfer from the wind to the ocean, with emphasis on near-inertial oscillations. Journal of Geophysical Research. Oceans, 124 (8). pp. 5723-5746. ISSN 2169-9275.

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Estimates of the kinetic energy transfer from the wind to the ocean are often limited by the spatial and temporal resolution of surface currents and surface winds. Here we examine the wind work in a pair of global, very high‐resolution (1/48° and 1/24°) MIT general circulation model simulations in Latitude‐Longitude‐polar Cap (LLC) configuration that provide hourly output at spatial resolutions of a few kilometers and include tidal forcing. A cospectrum analysis of wind stress and ocean surface currents shows positive contribution at large scales (>300 km) and near‐inertial frequency and negative contribution from mesoscales, tidal frequencies, and internal gravity waves. Larger surface kinetic energy fluxes are in the Kuroshio in winter at large scales (40 mW/m^2) and mesoscales (−30 mW/m^2). The Kerguelen region is dominated by large scale (∼20 mW/m^2), followed by inertial oscillations in summer (13 mW/m^2) and mesoscale in winter (−12 mW/m^2). Kinetic energy fluxes from internal gravity waves (−0.1 to −9.9 mW/m^2) are generally stronger in summer. Surface kinetic energy fluxes in the LLC simulations are 4.71 TW, which is 25–85% higher than previous global estimates from coarser (1/6–1/10°) general ocean circulation models; this is likely due to improved representation of wind variability (6‐hourly, 0.14°, operational European Center for Medium‐Range Weather Forecasts). However, the low wind power input to the near‐inertial frequency band obtained with LLC (0.16 TW) compared to global slab models suggests that wind variability on time scales less than 6 hr and spatial scales less than 15 km are critical to better representing the wind power input in ocean circulation models.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Flexas, M. Mar0000-0002-0617-3004
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Torres, Hector S.0000-0003-2098-8012
Klein, Patrice0000-0002-3089-3896
Farrar, J. Thomas0000-0003-3495-1990
Menemenlis, Dimitris0000-0001-9940-8409
Additional Information:© 2019 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. Received 15 AUG 2018; Accepted 27 JUN 2019; Accepted article online 3 JUL 2019; Published online 15 AUG 2019. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that led to an improved manuscript. We are grateful to Jörn Callies and Laurie Padman for fruitful discussions. This work is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through the project “Towards improved estimates of upper ocean energetics: Science motivation for the simultaneous measurement of ocean surface vector winds and currents” (Grant NNX15AG42G) and through NASA Grant NNX14AM71G and NNX16AH76G. Model output from global 1/48° and 1/24° ECCO2 MITgcm simulations is freely available to the community. For access of the full solutions, we recommend that users apply for an HEC account at NASA Ames. Data are provided online (∼dmenemen/llc/). Users without a NASA Ames account may explore what is available online ( This work was, in part, performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Color maps used in this contribution are from Thyng et al. (2016). To Teresa and Francesc, for their patience.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:surface fluxes; inertial oscillations; wind power; energy budget; global ocean model; MITgcm
Issue or Number:8
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190710-110918960
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Official Citation:Flexas, M. M., Thompson, A. F., Torres, H. S., Klein, P., Farrar, J. T., Zhang, H., & Menemenlis, D. (2019). Global estimates of the energy transfer from the wind to the ocean, with emphasis on near‐inertial oscillations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 5723–5746. 124.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:97027
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:10 Jul 2019 18:41
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 21:27

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