Eddy properties in the California Current System

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  • Eddy detection and tracking algorithms are applied to both satellite altimetry and a high‐resolution (dx = 5 km) climatological model solution of the U.S. West Coast to study the properties of surface and undercurrent eddies in the California Current System. Eddy properties show remarkable similarity in space and time, and even somewhat in polarity. Summer and fall are the most active seasons for undercurrent eddy generation, while there is less seasonal variation at surface. Most of the eddies have radii in the range of 25–100 km, sea level anomaly amplitudes of 1–4 cm, and vorticity normalized by ƒ amplitudes of 0.025–0.2. Many of the eddies formed near the coast travel considerable distance westward with speeds about 2 km/day, consistent with the β effect. Anticyclones and cyclones show equatorward and poleward displacements, respectively. Long‐lived surface eddies show a cyclonic dominance. The subsurface California Undercurrent generates more long‐lived anticyclones than cyclones through instabilities and topographic/coastline effects. In contrast, surface eddies and subsurface cyclones have much more widely distributed birth sites. The majority of the identified eddies have lifetimes less than a season. Eddies extend to 800–1500 m depth and have distinctive vertical structures for cyclones and anticyclones. Eddies show high nonlinearity (rotation speed higher than propagation speed) and hence can be efficient in transporting materials offshore.
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  • Kurian, J., F. Colas, X. Capet, J. C. McWilliams, and D. B. Chelton (2011), Eddy properties in the California Current System, Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, C08027, doi:10.1029/2010JC006895.
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  • 116
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  • C08027
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  • We appreciate the support of the Office of Naval Research through the grants N00014‐08‐1‐0597 and N00014‐10‐ 1‐0484. D.B.C.’s contribution to this research was funded as part of the NASA Ocean Surface Topography Science Team through NASA grant NNX08AR37G.



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