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Eddy properties in the Southern California Current System

  • Author(s): Chenillat, F
  • Franks, PJS
  • Capet, X
  • Rivière, P
  • Grima, N
  • Blanke, B
  • Combes, V
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. The California Current System (CCS) is an eastern boundary upwelling system characterized by strong eddies that are often generated at the coast. These eddies contribute to intense, long-distance cross-shelf transport of upwelled water with enhanced biological activity. However, the mechanisms of formation of such coastal eddies, and more importantly their capacity to trap and transport tracers, are poorly understood. Their unpredictability and strong dynamics leave us with an incomplete picture of the physical and biological processes at work, their effects on coastal export, lateral water exchange among eddies and their surrounding waters, and how long and how far these eddies remain coherent structures. Focusing our analysis on the southern part of the CCS, we find a predominance of cyclonic eddies, with a 25-km radius and a SSH amplitude of 6 cm. They are formed near shore and travel slightly northwest offshore for ~ 190 days at ~ 2 km day−1. We then study one particular, representative cyclonic eddy using a combined Lagrangian and Eulerian numerical approach to characterize its kinematics. Formed near shore, this eddy trapped a core made up of ~ 67% California Current waters and ~ 33% California Undercurrent waters. This core was surrounded by other waters while the eddy detached from the coast, leaving the oldest waters at the eddy’s core and the younger waters toward the edge. The eddy traveled several months as a coherent structure, with only limited lateral exchange within the eddy.

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