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Volume 16, issue 3
Ocean Sci., 16, 657–684, 2020
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-16-657-2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Ocean Sci., 16, 657–684, 2020
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-16-657-2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 26 May 2020

Research article | 26 May 2020

Very high-resolution modelling of submesoscale turbulent patterns and processes in the Baltic Sea

Reiner Onken, Burkard Baschek, and Ingrid M. Angel-Benavides Reiner Onken et al.
  • Institute of Coastal Research, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Max-Planck-Straße 1, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany

Abstract. In order to simulate submesoscale turbulent patterns and processes (STPPs) and to analyse their properties and dynamics, the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) was run for June 2016 in a subregion of the Baltic Sea. To create a realistic mesoscale environment, ROMS with 500 m horizontal resolution (referred to as R500) is one-way nested into an existing operational model, and STPPs with horizontal scales  < 1 km are resolved with a second nest of 100 m resolution (R100). Both nests use 10 terrain-following layers in the vertical. The comparison of the R500 results with a satellite image shows fair agreement. While R500 is driven by realistic air–sea fluxes, the atmospheric forcing is turned off in R100 because it prevents the generation of STPPs and blurs submesoscale structures. Therefore, R100 provides deep insight into ageostrophic processes and associated quantities under quasi-adiabatic conditions that are approximately met in no-wind or light-wind situations. The validity of the results is furthermore limited to the selected region and the time of the year. STPPs evolve rapidly within a about a day. They are characterized by vertical speeds of 𝒪(10) m d−1 and relative vorticities and divergences reaching multiples of the Coriolis parameter. Typical elements of the secondary circulation of two-dimensional strain-induced frontogenesis are identified at an exemplary front in shallow water, and details of the ageostrophic flow field are revealed. The conditions for inertial and symmetric instability are evaluated for the whole domain, and the components of the tendency equation are computed in a subregion. While anticyclonic eddies are generated solely along coasts, cyclonic eddies are rolled-up streamers and found in the entire domain. A special feature of the cyclones is their ability to absorb internal waves and to sustain patches of continuous upwelling for several days, favouring plankton growth. The kinematic properties show good agreement with observations, while some observed details within a small cyclonic eddy are only partly reproduced, most likely due to a lack of horizontal resolution or nonhydrostatic effects.

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In order to provide an aid for the interpretation of observations of the formation, structure, and dynamics of submesoscale patterns, a numerical model is applied in a double-offline-nested setup to a sub-area of the Baltic Sea. A model with 500 m horizontal resolution is nested into an existing operational model in order to create a realistic mesoscale environment. Turbulent patterns with horizontal scales < 1 km are resolved by a second nest with 100 m resolution.
In order to provide an aid for the interpretation of observations of the formation, structure,...
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