Spatial and temporal characteristics of the mesoscale circulation of the California Current from eddy-resolving moored and shipboard measurements Public Deposited

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  • Moored observations of currents and temperatures made in the upper 600 m on eddy-resolving scales over a 2-year period are used to examine the spatial and temporal characteristics of the California Current mesoscale circulation. The observations were made at three principal longitudes: 124°W, 126°W, and 128°W in the vicinity of Point Arena. They bracket the 600-km-wide band of high mesoscale variability found along the eastern boundary of the North Pacific. At all locations, the mesoscale variability was larger than the mean flow, and the spatial modes of variability as determined from empirical orthogonal function analysis consisted of an alongshore mode, a cross-shore mode, and a rotational mode. Observations made near the continental slope (124°W) were dominated by the poleward flowing California Undercurrent, with mesoscale eddies and meanders superposed. The nearshore eddy kinetic energy peaked in a band centered around 60 days. Observations made at 128°W, near the offshore boundary between the energetic mesoscale band and the "eddy desert" of the northeast Pacific, were characterized by small means, fewer eddy events, and a peak in eddy kinetic energy at 120-180 days. The good horizontal resolution of the current meter arrays allowed us to estimate the relative vorticity, horizontal divergence, and Rossby number and therefore to evaluate the relative strength and occurrence of anticyclones and cyclones. We found the mesoscale eddy field to be strongly nonlinear, with Rossby numbers ranging from 0.1 to 0.5. All of the eddies observed at the offshore site were nonlinear, deep, warm anticyclones. Shipboard hydrography revealed the origin of one of these anticyclones to be the California Undercurrent, and this eddy retained its strong anomalies after several months and several hundred kilometers of propagation. Despite the lower incidence of eddies as one moves west from the coast, the eddies that we observed offshore provide evidence for propagation and transport of properties from the coast to the central North Pacific across the California Current System
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  • Chereskin, T. K., Morris, M. Y., Niiler, P. P., Kosro, P. M., Smith, R. L., Ramp, S. R., & Collins, C. A. (2000). Spatial and temporal characteristics of the mesoscale circulation of the California Current from eddy-resolving moored and shipboard measurements. Journal of Geophysical Research, 105(C1), 1245-1269.
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