Frequency dependence and vertical structure of ocean surface kinetic energy...

Arbic, B., S. Elipot, J. M. Brasch, D. Menemenlis, A. L. Ponte, J. Shriver, X. Yu, E. D. Zaron, M. H. Alford, M. C. Buijsman, R. Abernathey, D. Garcia, L. Guan, P. E. Martin, and A. D. Nelson (2022), Frequency dependence and vertical structure of ocean surface kinetic energy from global high-resolution models and surface drifter observations, J. Geophys. Res. (submitted).

The geographical variability, frequency content, and vertical structure of near-surface oceanic kinetic energy (KE) are important for air-sea interaction, marine ecosystems, operational oceanography, pollutant tracking, and interpreting remotely sensed velocity measurements. Here, KE in high-resolution global simulations (HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model; HYCOM, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model; MITgcm), at the sea surface (0 m) and 15 m, are respectively compared with KE from undrogued and drogued surface drifters. Global maps and zonal averages are computed
for low-frequency (periods longer than 2 days), near-inertial, diurnal, and semi-diurnal bands. In the low-frequency band, near the equator, both models exhibit KE values that are too low relative to drifters. MITgcm near-inertial KE is too low, while HYCOM nearinertial KE lies closer to drifter KE, probably due to more frequently updated atmospheric forcing. In the semi-diurnal band, MITgcm KE is too high, while HYCOM lies closer to drifters, likely due to the inclusion of a parameterized topographic internal wave drag. We assess the KE vertical structure by considering the ratio of zonally averaged KE in 0 m/15 m model results and undrogued/drogued drifter results. Over most latitudes and frequency bands, model ratios track the drifter ratio to within error bars. All frequency bands except the semi-diurnal band display measurable vertical structure. Latitudinal dependence in the vertical structure is greatest in the diurnal and low-frequency bands. As in a previous comparison of HYCOM and MITgcm to current meter observations, HYCOM generally displays larger spatial correlations with the drifter observations than MITgcm does.

Research Program: 
Physical Oceanography Program (POP)