Quantifying and interpreting striations in a subtropical gyre: a spectral perspective

Chen, R, Flierl G, Wunsch C.  2015.  Quantifying and interpreting striations in a subtropical gyre: a spectral perspective. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 45(2):387–406.


The amplitude, origin and direction of striations in the subtropical gyre are investigated using simulated and analytical multi-dimensional spectra. Striations, defined as banded structures in the low-frequency motions, account for a noticeable percentage of zonal velocity variability in the East North Pacific (ENP: 25°N – 42°N, 150°W – 130°W) and Central North Pacific (CNP: 10°N – 22°N, 132°E – 162°W) regions in an eddying global ocean model. Thus, they likely are non-negligible in mixing and transport processes. Striations in the ENP region are non-zonal and are embedded in the non-zonal gyre flow; whereas striations in the CNP region are more zonal, as are the mean gyre flows. An idealized 1.5-layer model shows the gyre flow partially determines their directions, which qualitatively resemble those in the global eddying model. In the linear limit, structures are quasi-stationary (frequency ω → 0) linear Rossby waves and the gyre flow influences the direction by influencing the nature of the zero Rossby wave frequency curve. In the nonlinear regime, striations are consistent with the non-dispersively propagating eddies, whose low-frequency component has banded structures. The gyre flow influences the striation direction by changing the eddy-propagation direction. Their origin in the nonlinear regime is consistent with the existence of a non-dispersive line in the frequency-wavenumber spectra. We do not exclude other striation mechanisms from literature, considering that the interpretations here are based on an idealized model and only from a spectral perspective.