Surface Signature of Subsurface-Intensified Vortices

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Daniele Ciani1, Xavier J Carton1, Bertrand Chapron2 and Igor Bashmachnikov3, (1)Laboratoire de Physique des Océans, Brest, France, (2)Laboratoire d'Océanographie Spatiale, Brest, France, (3)Centro de Oceanografia, Lisbon, Portugal
The ocean at mesoscale (20-200 km) and submesoscale (0.5-20km) is highly populated by vortices. These recirculating structures are more energetic than the mean flow, they trap water masses from their origin areas and advect them across the ocean, with consequent impact on the 3D distribution of heat and tracers. Mesoscale and submesoscale structures characterize the ocean dynamics both at the sea surface and at intrathermocline depths (0-1500m), and are presently investigated by means of model outputs, in-situ and satellite (surface) data, the latest being the only way to get high resolution and synoptic observations at planetary scale (e.g., thermal-band observations, future altimetric observations given by the SWOT satellite mission). The scientific question arising from this context is related to the role of the ocean surface for inferring informations on mesoscale and submesoscale vortices at depth. This study has also been motivated by the recent detection of subsurface eddies east of the Arabian Peninsula (PHYSINDIEN experiment - 2011).
Using analytical models in the frame of the QG theory, we could describe the theoretical altimetric signature of non-drifting and of drifting subsurface eddies. Numerical experiments, using both coupled QG-SQG and primitive equations models, allowed us to investigate the surface expression of intrathermocline eddies interacting with baroclinic currents or evolving under planetary beta-effect. The eddy characteristics (radius, depth, thickness, velocity) were varied, to represent various oceanic examples (Meddies, Swoddies, Reddies, Peddies, Leddies). Idealized simulations with the ROMS model, confirming theoretical estimates, showed that drifting subsurface-intensified vortices can induce dipolar sea level anomalies, up to 3 cm. This result, compatibly with future SWOT measurement accuracies (about 2 cm), is a first step towards systematic and synoptic detection of subsurface vortices.