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Evolving the subspace of the three-dimensional multiscale ocean variability: Massachusetts Bay

Lermusiaux, P.F.J., 2001. Evolving the subspace of the three-dimensional multiscale ocean variability: Massachusetts Bay. Journal of Marine Systems, Special issue on "Three-dimensional ocean circulation: Lagrangian measurements and diagnostic analyses", 29/1-4, 385-422, doi: 10.1016/S0924-7963(01)00025-2.

A data and dynamics driven approach to estimate, decompose, organize and analyze the evolving three-dimensional variability of ocean fields is outlined. Variability refers here to the statistics of the differences between ocean states and a reference state. In general, these statistics evolve in time and space. For a first endeavor, the variability subspace defined by the dominant eigendecomposition of a normalized form of the variability covariance is evolved. A multiscale methodology for its initialization and forecast is outlined. It combines data and primitive equation dynamics within a Monte-Carlo approach. The methodology is applied to part of a multidisciplinary experiment that occurred in Massachusetts Bay in late summer and early fall of 1998. For a 4-day time period, the three-dimensional and multivariate properties of the variability standard deviations and dominant eigenvectors are studied. Two variability patterns are discussed in detail. One relates to a displacement of the Gulf of Maine coastal current offshore from Cape Ann, with the creation of adjacent mesoscale recirculation cells. The other relates to a Bay-wide coastal upwelling mode from Barnstable Harbor to Gloucester in response to strong southerly winds. Snapshots and tendencies of physical fields and trajectories of simulated Lagrangian drifters are employed to diagnose and illustrate the use of the dominant variability covariance. The variability subspace is shown to guide the dynamical analysis of the physical fields. For the stratified conditions, it is found that strong wind events can alter the structures of the buoyancy flow and that circulation features are more variable than previously described, on multiple scales. In several locations, the factors estimated to be important include some or all of the atmospheric and surface pressure forcings, and associated Ekman transports and downwelling/upwelling processes, the Coriolis force, the pressure force, inertia and mixing.