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Tracer subduction and energy cycles in an idealized ACC model, and the potential for measuring energy transfers from space
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  • Dhruv Balwada,
  • Takaya Uchida,
  • K. Shafer Smith,
  • Ryan Abernathey
Dhruv Balwada
Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences

Corresponding Author:dhruvbalwada@gmail.com

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Takaya Uchida
Columbia University of New York
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K. Shafer Smith
New York University
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Ryan Abernathey
Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
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Fronts, at both mesoscale and submesoscales, are generally hypothesized to play a significant role in mediating the transfer of tracers from the surface boundary layer into the interior. With the advent of computational capabilities numerous high resolution modeling studies have shown the enhancement of of vertical velocities with increasing horizontal resolution. In a carefully designed setup of an idealized channel partially blocked by meridional topography and forced by steady forcing, idealization of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, we vary the horizontal resolution as the control parameter, and analyze the impact of enhanced vertical velocities on tracer subduction. It is found that the submesoscale-permitting simulations flux far more tracer downward than the lower resolution simulations, the 1km simulation takes up 50\% more tracer compared to the 20km simulation, despite the increased restratifying influence of the resolved submesoscale processes. A spectral decomposition of the flow and fluxes illuminated the relative importance of scales, and the inefficiency of inertia-gravity waves in influencing tracer transport. To further understand the physical dynamics in these simulations we diagnosed how energy was being transferred between the mean and eddy kinetic and potential energy reservoirs (Lorenz energy cycles), and if changing the resolution influenced this exchange. In particular we focussed on separating the dynamics of the energy cycles that are active in the interior of the water column and those that are trapped near the surface. We also analyzed the inter-lengthscale exchange of energy to understand the detailed spectral dynamics of the turbulence that is resolved. Lastly, and probably most relevant to SWOT, we looked at the energy budgets in terms of velocity and pressure structure functions, to assess the potential for the future SWOT mission to directly measure the inter-scale energy transfers at the ocean surface.