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Eddies in eastern boundary subtropical upwelling systems

Abstract : Over the last decade, mesoscale-resolving ocean models of eastern boundary upwelling systems (EBS) have helped improve our understanding of the functioning of EBS and, in particular, assess the role of eddy activity in these systems. We review the main achievements in this regard and highlight remaining issues and challenges. In EBS, eddy activity arises from baroclinic/barotropic instability of the inshore and also offshore currents. Mesoscale eddies play a significant (although not leading) role in shaping the EBS dynamical structure, both directly and through associated submesoscale activity (i.e., primarily frontal). They do so by modifying both momentum and tracer balances in ways that cannot simply be understood in terms of diffusion. The relative degree to which these assertions about eddy activity and eddy role apply to each of the four major EBS (Canary, Benguela, Peru–Chile, and California Current Systems) remains to be established. Besides resolving the eddies, benefits from EBS high-resolution modeling include the possibility of accounting for the fine-scale structures of the nearshore wind, a better representation of the Ekman-driven coastal divergence, and (at resolution σ (1 km) or lower) inclusion of submesoscale (i.e., mainly frontal) processes. Recent numerical experiments suggest that accounting for these various processes in climate models, through resolution increase (possibly locally) or parameterization, would lead to significant basin-scale bias reduction. The mechanisms involved in upscaling from EBS toward the larger scale remain to be fully elucidated.
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Contributor : Francoise Cudennec <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 4:55:08 PM
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Xavier Capet, François Colas, James C. Mcwilliams, Pierrick Penven, Patrick Marchesiello. Eddies in eastern boundary subtropical upwelling systems. M.W. Hecht, H. Hasumi. Ocean Modeling in an Eddying Regime, 177, AGU, pp.165-174, 2008, Geophysical Monograph Series, ⟨10.1029/177GM10⟩. ⟨hal-00406231⟩



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