Observations and modeling of a California undercurrent eddy

Cornuelle, BD, Chereskin TK, Niiler PP, Morris MY, Musgrave DL.  2000.  Observations and modeling of a California undercurrent eddy. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 105:1227-1243.

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beta, circulation, Data assimilation, dynamics, energy, equations, inverse, predictability, topography, turbulence


A deep, nonlinear warm eddy advecting water that was also anomalously saltier, lower in oxygen, and higher in nutrients relative to surrounding waters was observed in moored current and temperature measurements and in hydrographic data obtained at a site similar to 400 km off the coast of northern California. The eddy was reproduced using a nonlinear quasi-geostrophic model, initialized by an iterative procedure using time series of 2-day averaged moored current measurements. The procedure demonstrates how a data assimilative technique synthesizes and enhances the resolution of a relatively sparse data set by incorporating time-dependence and model physics. The model forecast showed significant skill above persistence or climatology for 40 days. Our hypothesis, that the eddy was generated at the coast in winter and subsequently moved 400 km offshore by May, is consistent with the eddy movement diagnosed by the model and with the observations and coastal climatology. The model evolution significantly underpredicted the temperature anomaly in the eddy owing in part to unmodeled salinity compensation in trapped California Undercurrent water. Together, observations and model results show a stable nonlinear eddy in the California Current System that transported water and properties southwestward through the energetic eastern boundary region. Coherent features such as this one may be a mechanism for property transfer between the eddy-rich coastal zone and the eddy desert of the eastern North Pacific Ocean.