Towed thermister chain observations of fronts in the subtropical North Pacific Public Deposited

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  • A thermistor chain was towed 1400 km through the eastern North Pacific subtropical frontal zone in January 1980. The observations resolve surface layer temperature features with horizontal wavelengths of 0.2-200 km and vertical scales of 10-70 m. The dominant features, which have horizontal wavelengths of 10-100 km, amplitudes of 0.2°-1.0°C, and random orientation, likely arise from baroclinic instability. Associated with them is a plateau below 0.1 cpkm in the horizontal temperature gradient spectrum. Strong temperature fronts O(1°-2°C/3-10 km) are observed near 33°N, 31°N, and 27°N. Temperature variability is partially density compensated by salinity, with the fraction of compensation increasing northward. There is evidence of vertical mixing during high winds. Temperature at 15-m depth is roughly normally distributed around the climatological surface mean, with a standard deviation of approximately 0.5°C. The standard deviation would correspond to an adiabatic meridional displacement of 80-100 km in the mean gradient. Horizontal temperature gradient at 15-m depth has maximum values in excess of 0.25°C/100 m and kurtosis near 80. In the band 0.10-1 cpkm, the 15-m gradient spectrum is inversely proportional to wave number, consistent with predictions from geostrophic turbulence theory, while the spectrum at 70-m depth has additional variance that is consistent with Garrett-Munk internal wave displacements.
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  • Samelson, R. M., and C. A. Paulson (1988), Towed Thermistor Chain Observations of Fronts in the Subtropical North Pacific, J. Geophys. Res., 93(C3), 2237–2246.
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