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Surface wave effects on submesoscale fronts and filaments

  • James C. McWilliams (a1)


A diagnostic analysis is made for the ageostrophic secondary circulation, buoyancy flux and frontogenetic tendency (SCFT) in upper-ocean submesoscale fronts and dense filaments under the combined influences of boundary-layer turbulent mixing, surface wind stress and surface gravity waves. The analysis is based on a momentum-balance approximation that neglects ageostrophic acceleration, and the surface wave effects are represented with a wave-averaged asymptotic theory based on the time scale separation between wave and current evolution. The wave’s Stokes-drift velocity $\boldsymbol{u}_{st}$ induces SCFT effects that are dominant in strong swell with weak turbulent mixing, and they combine with Ekman and turbulent thermal wind influences in more general situations near wind–wave equilibrium. The complementary effect of the submesoscale currents on the waves is weak for longer waves near the wind–wave or swell spectrum peak, but it is strong for shorter waves.


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Surface wave effects on submesoscale fronts and filaments

  • James C. McWilliams (a1)


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