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Oceanic wave-balanced surface fronts and filaments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2013

James C. McWilliams
Affiliation:
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565, USA
Baylor Fox-Kemper
Affiliation:
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0311, USA
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

A geostrophic, hydrostatic, frontal or filamentary flow adjusts conservatively to accommodate a surface gravity wave field with wave-averaged, Stokes-drift vortex and Coriolis forces in an altered balanced state. In this altered state, the wave-balanced perturbations have an opposite cross-front symmetry to the original geostrophic state; e.g. the along-front flow perturbation is odd-symmetric about the frontal centre while the geostrophic flow is even-symmetric. The adjustment tends to make the flow scale closer to the deformation radius, and it induces a cross-front shape displacement in the opposite direction to the overturning effects of wave-aligned down-front and up-front winds. The ageostrophic, non-hydrostatic, adjusted flow may differ from the initial flow substantially, with velocity and buoyancy perturbations that extend over a larger and deeper region than the initial front and Stokes drift. The largest effect occurs for fronts that are wider than the mixed layer deformation radius and that fill about two-thirds of a well-mixed surface layer, with the Stokes drift spanning only the shallowest part of the mixed layer. For even deeper mixed layers, and especially for thinner or absent mixed layers, the wave-balanced adjustments are not as large.

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Copyright
©2013 Cambridge University Press 

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