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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
The Impact of Western Boundary Current and Eddies on the Across-Shelf Exchange in the South Atlantic Bight: An Integrated Study Using Satellite Altimeters Time Series, In-situ Observations, and Data Assimilative Numerical Modeling


Renato Castelao - (University of Georgia)

  Ruoying He
(North Carolina State University, Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)


This project aims at significantly improving our fundamental understanding of the role of western boundary current and eddies on the across-shelf exchange between the coastal and deep ocean. Our study will focus on the Gulf Stream and the South Atlantic Bight (SAB), and our underlying hypothesis is that the Gulf Stream eddies and meanders are the main mechanism responsible for bi-directional (i.e., onshore and offshore) cross-isobath flows in the SAB.

We will take an integrated approach to combine 20 years of satellite altimeters time series data, sea surface temperature and ocean color imagery, in situ observations including autonomous underwater glider survey data, and advanced 4-dimensional variational data assimilative ocean circulation model simulations to understand detailed structures and dynamics of the Gulf Stream eddy/meander-induced cross-isobath exchange, which is known to be highly complex due to convoluted interactions among the varying shelf topography, stratification, wind forcing, and Gulf Stream. Specifically, we will:

  1. characterize the spatial and temporal variability of Gulf Stream eddies and meanders;
  2. quantify the role of Gulf Stream eddies and meanders in the across-shelf exchange and the three-dimensional transport pathways between SAB shelf and deep ocean; and
  3. identify the main dynamical processes controlling the variability in eddy-induced cross-isobath exchange in the SAB.

Western boundary currents and eddies are known for a long time to have large impact on cross-isobath exchange and significant biogeochemical implications in many regions of the global oceans. Detailed understandings of such process remain limited, however. Results and findings from our integrated investigation and careful dynamical analyses will therefore be highly relevant and applicable to address this fundamental oceanographic topic in other regions as well.

New in-situ observations, and high-resolution regional (SAB) sea surface height, sea surface temperature, and ocean color products will be generated and applied in our research, and distributed widely to scientific and public communities. This project will also promote ocean science education by supporting and training two graduate students in oceanography.

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