Scale-dependent analysis of in situ observations in the mesoscale to submesoscale range around New Caledonia

Sérazin, Guillaume; Marin, Frédéric; Gourdeau, Lionel; Cravatte, Sophie; Morrow, Rosemary; Dabat, Mei-Ling

Small-scale ocean dynamics around New Caledonia (22inline-formula S) in the southwest Pacific Ocean occur in regions with substantial mesoscale eddies, complex bathymetry, complex intertwined currents, islands and strong internal tides. Using second-order structure functions applied to observational acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) and thermosalinograph (TSG) datasets, these small-scale dynamics are characterised in the range of scales of 3–100 km in order to determine the turbulent regime at work. A Helmholtz decomposition is used to analyse the contribution of rotational and divergent motions. A surface-intensified regime is shown to be at work south and east of New Caledonia, involving substantial rotational motions such as submesoscale structures generated by mixed layer instabilities and frontogenesis. This regime is, however, absent north of New Caledonia, where mesoscale eddies are weaker and surface available potential energy is smaller at small scales. North of New Caledonia and below 200 m, in the regions south and east of New Caledonia, the dynamical regime at work could be explained by stratified turbulence as divergent and rotational motions have similar contribution, but weakly nonlinear interaction between inertia–gravity waves is also possible as structure functions get close to the empirical spectrum model for inertia–gravity waves. Seasonal variations of the available potential energy reservoir, associated with a change in the vertical profile rather than in horizontal density variance, suggest that submesoscale motions would also seasonally vary around New Caledonia. Overall, a loss of geostrophic balance is likely to occur at scales smaller than 10 km, where the contribution of divergent motions become significant.

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Sérazin, Guillaume / Marin, Frédéric / Gourdeau, Lionel / et al: Scale-dependent analysis of in situ observations in the mesoscale to submesoscale range around New Caledonia. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Guillaume Sérazin et al.

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