Frontal convergence and vertical velocity measured by drifters in the Alboran Sea

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Tarry, Daniel R.
Essink, Sebastian
Pascual, Ananda
Ruiz, Simon
Poulain, Pierre Marie
Ozgokmen, Tamay M.
Centurioni, Luca R.
Farrar, J. Thomas
Shcherbina, Andrey Y.
Mahadevan, Amala
D'Asaro, Eric A.
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Alboran Sea
kinematic properties
Lagrangian float
vertical velocity
Horizontal and vertical motions associated with mesoscale (10–100 km) and submesoscale (1–10 km) features, such as fronts, meanders, eddies, and filaments, play a critical role in redistributing physical and biogeochemical properties in the ocean. This study makes use of a multiplatform data set of 82 drifters, a Lagrangian float, and profile timeseries of temperature and salinity, obtained in a ∼1-m/s semipermanent frontal jet in the Alboran Sea as part of CALYPSO (Coherent Lagrangian Pathways from the Surface Ocean to Interior). Drifters drogued at ∼1-m and 15-m depth capture the mesoscale and submesoscale circulation aligning along the perimeter of fronts due to horizontal shear. Clusters of drifters are used to estimate the kinematic properties, such as vorticity and divergence, of the flow by fitting a bivariate plane to the horizontal drifter velocities. Clusters with submesoscale length scales indicate normalized vorticity ζ/f > 1 with Coriolis frequency f and normalized divergence of (1) occurring in patches along the front, with error variance around 10%. By computing divergence from drifter clusters at two different depths, we estimate minimum vertical velocity of (−100 m day−1) in the upper 10 m of the water column. These results are at least twice as large as previous estimates of vertical velocity in the region. Location, magnitude, and timing of the convergence are consistent with behavior of a Lagrangian float subducting in the center of a drifter cluster. These results improve our understanding of frontal subduction and quantify convergence and vertical velocity using Lagrangian tools.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2021. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 126(4), (2021): e2020JC016614,
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Tarry, D. R., Essink, S., Pascual, A., Ruiz, S., Poulain, P., Ozgokmen, T., Centurioni, L. R., Farrar, J. T., Shcherbina, A., Mahadevan, A., & D'Asaro, E. (2021). Frontal convergence and vertical velocity measured by drifters in the Alboran Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(4), e2020JC016614.
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