The spatial structure and interannual variability of California current system
Davis, Andrew Murphy
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The California Current is the Eastern Boundary Current associated with the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, transporting cold, nutrient-rich water equatorward. It is also an area of strong mesoscale eddy variance, as well as subsurface zonal currents known as striations. This work examines the causes and variability of these transports using a set of eddy-resolving ocean model simulations. Large-scale meridional transports are found to be driven interannually by the dominant local pattern of wind stress curl variability. This contrasts with earlier work that suggested that these transports were forced principally by tropically-originating coastal- trapped waves. While mesoscale eddies possess a large fraction of intrinsic variance, there is a deterministic component as well. North of the Southern California Bight this component is driven by the same pattern of wind forcing. To the south, eddies respond nonlinearly to both atmospheric and oceanic forcing. Striations are found to develop in response to irregularities in the California coastline. They spin up along with the large-scale circulation, and their magnitude is constrained by the shelf.