A survey of submesoscale currents

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Abstract

Submesoscale currents are pervasive throughout the ocean. They have intermediate space and time scales—neither mesoscale nor microscale—that have made them elusive for measurements and modeling until recently. In this brief article, a survey is presented of their primary characteristics and interpretive explanations, intended for a broad audience of physical and biogeochemical oceanographers. Besides their identifying scales, submesoscale currents are distinctive in their flow patterns, their essential dynamical processes, and their consequences for transport, mixing, and dissipation in the general circulation. There are two primary submesoscale populations, a frontal one in the near-surface layer with its typically reduced stratification, and another vortical one, generated in topographic wakes, that (sparsely) fills the oceanic interior.

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McWilliams, J. C. (2019). A survey of submesoscale currents. Geoscience Letters, 6(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40562-019-0133-3

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