Surface waves affect frontogenesis


This paper provides a detailed analysis of momentum, angular momentum, vorticity, and energy budgets of a submesoscale front undergoing frontogenesis driven by an upper-ocean, submesoscale eddy field in a Large Eddy Simulation (LES). The LES solves the wave-averaged, or Craik-Leibovich, equations in order to account for the Stokes forces that result from interactions between nonbreaking surface waves and currents, and resolves both submesoscale eddies and boundary layer turbulence down to 4.9 m 3 4.9 m 3 1.25 m grid scales. It is found that submesoscale frontogenesis differs from traditional frontogenesis theory due to four effects: Stokes forces, momentum and kinetic energy transfer from submesoscale eddies to frontal secondary circulations, resolved turbulent stresses, and unbalanced torque. In the energy, momentum, angular momentum, and vorticity budgets for the frontal overturning circulation, the Stokes shear force is a leading-order contributor, typically either the second or third largest source of frontal overturning. These effects violate hydrostatic and thermal wind balances during submesoscale frontogenesis. The effect of the Stokes shear force becomes stronger with increasing alignment of the front and Stokes shear and with a nondimensional scaling. The Stokes shear force and momentum transfer from submesoscale eddies significantly energize the frontal secondary circulation along with the buoyancy.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Peter Hamlington
Peter Hamlington
Associate Professor

Peter is an associate professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and the principal investigator of the Turbulence and Energy Systems Laboratory.