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Can mesoscale eddy kinetic energy sources and sinks be inferred from sea surface height in the Agulhas Current region?
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  • Pauline Tedesco,
  • Jonathan Gula,
  • Pierrick Penven,
  • Claire Ménesguen,
  • Quentin Jamet,
  • Clément Vic
Pauline Tedesco
University of Cambridge

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jonathan Gula
Université de Bretagne Occidentale
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Pierrick Penven
Univ Brest, CNRS, Ifremer, IRD, Laboratoire d'Océanographie Physique et Spatiale (LOPS)
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Claire Ménesguen
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Quentin Jamet
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Clément Vic
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Western boundaries have been suggested as mesoscale eddy graveyards, using a diagnostic of the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) flux divergence based on sea surface height (η). The graveyard’s paradigm relies on the approximation of geostrophy — required by the use of η — and other approximations that support long baroclinic Rossby waves as the dominant contribution to the EKE flux divergence. However, a recent study showed an opposite paradigm in the Agulhas Current region using an unapproximated EKE flux divergence. Here, we assess the validity of the approximations used to derive the η-based EKE flux divergence using a regional numerical simulation of the Agulhas Current. The EKE flux divergence consists of the eddy pressure work (EPW) and the EKE advection (AEKE). We show that geostrophy is valid for inferring AEKE, but that all approximations are invalid for inferring EPW. A scale analysis shows that at mesoscale (L > O(30)km), EPW is dominated by coupled geostrophic-ageostrophic EKE flux and that Rossby waves effect is weak. There is also a hitherto neglected topographic contribution, which can be locally dominant. AEKE is dominated by the geostrophic EKE flux, which makes a substantial contribution (54%) to the net regional mesoscale EKE source represented by the EKE flux divergence. Other contributions, including topographic and ageostrophic effects, are also significant. Our results support the use of η to infer a qualitative estimate of the EKE flux divergence in the Agulhas Current region. However, they invalidate the approximations on mesoscale eddy dynamics that underlie the graveyard’s paradigm.
06 Jan 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
08 Jan 2024Published in ESS Open Archive