The Variability of Winds and Fluxes Observed Near Submesoscale Fronts


Submesoscale oceanic fronts (SFs), which typically occur on a spatial scale of 0.1–10 km, may have a large influence on the atmospheric surface layer (ASL). However, due to their short temporal‐spatial scales, evaluating their direct impact on this layer remains challenging and characterizing the nature of SF‐ASL interaction has not been done in the field. To address this, a study of the air‐sea response to SFs was conducted using observations collected during the Lagrangian Submesoscale Experiment, which took place in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This manuscript focuses on the meteorological measurements made from a pair of masts installed on the bow of the R/V Walton Smith . This work represents one of the first observation‐based investigations into the potential influence that SFs have on the ASL. Contemporaneous measurements from an X‐band marine radar, moving vessel profiler, and Lagrangian drifters were also used to analyze the SF dynamics. Systematic surface wind velocity changes over several cross‐frontal transects were observed, a process previously associated with mesoscale fronts. A comparison between the eddy covariance and parameterized (COARE 3.5) air‐sea fluxes revealed that the directly observed heat flux was 1.5 times larger than the bulk value in the vicinity of the SFs. This suggests that the hydrodynamic processes near the front enhance the local exchange of sensible and latent heat. Given the prevalence of SF over the global upper ocean, these findings suggest that these features may have a widely distributed and cumulative impact on air‐sea interactions.
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