Airborne Remote Sensing of Upper-Ocean and Surface Properties, Currents and...

Lenain, L., B. K. Smeltzer, N. Pizzo, M. Freilich, L. Colosi, S. Å. Ellingsen, L. Grare, H. Peyriere, and N. Statom (2023), Airborne Remote Sensing of Upper-Ocean and Surface Properties, Currents and Their Gradients From Meso to Submesoscales, Geophys. Res. Lett., 50, e2022GL102468, doi:10.1029/2022GL102468.

In this work we present a unique set of coincident and collocated high-resolution observations of surface currents and directional properties of surface waves collected from an airborne instrument, the Modular Aerial Sensing System, collected off the coast of Southern California. High-resolution observations of near surface current profiles and shear are obtained using a new instrument, “DoppVis”, capable of capturing horizontal spatial current variability down to 128 m resolution. This data set provides a unique opportunity to examine how currents at scales ranging from 1 to 100 km modulate bulk (e.g., significant wave height), directional and spectral properties of surface gravity waves. Such observations are a step toward developing better understanding of the underlying physics of submesoscale processes (e.g., frontogenesis and frontal arrest) and the nature of transitions between mesoscale and submesoscale dynamics. Plain Language Summary In recent years, through improvement of computational resolution of global ocean models, scientists have begun to suspect that kilometer-scale eddies, whirlpools and fronts, called “submesoscale” variability, make important contributions to horizontal and vertical exchange of climate and biological variables in the upper ocean. Such features are challenging to analyze, because of their size (and how quickly they evolve; within hours), they are too large to study from a research vessel but smaller than regions typically studied with satellite measurements. In this work, we use a research aircraft instrumented to characterize ocean currents, temperature, color (in turn chlorophyll concentration) and the properties of surface waves over an area large enough to capture submesoscale processes. This approach is a step forward in understanding and quantifying the underlying physics of submesoscale processes, and in turn develops parameterization that can help improve the fidelity of weather and climate models.

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Physical Oceanography Program (POP)