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Free Content Time scales of mesoscale variability and their relationship with space scales in the North Atlantic

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A systematic study of characteristic time scales of mesoscale variability over the North Atlantic was done using two years of Geosat data. Time scales are first characterized by 10° latitude by 10° longitude bins. A more detailed description was obtained by globally mapping the Sea Level Anomaly temporal correlation after one cycle (17.05 days). The scales are shortest in areas of high mesoscale activity (Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Current) while relatively long time scales are observed over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and in the eastern part of the basin. In general, time scales are not proportional to space scales. Propagation velocities obtained by dividing space scales by time scales appear to be minimal east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Frequency-wavenumber spectral analysis complemented this statistical description of mesoscale variability. It shows that the dominant wavelengths of around 200 to 500 km (depending on latitude) are associated with long periods (>150 days) in the eastern part of the basin, while near the Gulf Stream significant energy is found at shorter periods. Propagation velocities are generally westward. Pseudo-dispersion relations deduced from Geosat data suggest two distinct dynamic regimes, as in quasigeostrophic turbulence models: a turbulent regime for smaller scales, with proportionality between space and time scales, and an apparently more linear regime where an inverse dispersion relation is found in the eastern part of the basin. This latter characteristic is in agreement with quasigeostrophic models forced by fluctuating winds.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 1991

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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