Descriptive oceanography during the Frontal Air-Sea Interaction Experiment: Medium- to large-scale variability
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Medium- and large-scale oceanographic variability in the Sargasso Sea is examined during the Frontal Air-Sea Interaction Experiment (FASINEX), focusing primarily on processes that influence the formation of subtropical fronts. From Fall to Spring the mean meridional gradient of meridional Ekman transport in the Subtropical Convergence Zone (STCZ) enhances the meridional sea surface temperature (T(s)) gradients between 26-degrees and 32-degrees-N. In the presence of this enhanced mean gradient, baroclinic eddies with zonal wavelengths of almost-equal-to 800 km and periods of almost-equal-to 200 days exert the dominant influence on the formation of subtropical fronts at medium and large scales. These eddies generate westward propagating T(s) anomaly features with the same dominant wavelengths and periods. They are confined between 26-degrees and 32-degrees-N and have amplitudes that occasionally exceed +/- 1-degrees-C. T(s) fronts tend to be found within bands almost-equal-to 200 km wide that roughly follow the periphery of these anomaly features. Deformation in the horizontal eddy current field is primarily responsible for the existence of these frontal bands. The migration of the strong front originally bracketed by the FASINEX moored array was related to the westward propagation of the larger-scale eddy/anomaly/frontal-band pattern. The moored array was located within a warm-anomaly feature during most of the experiment, which produced exceptionally warm conditions in the upper ocean. These anomalies are confined between 26-degrees and 32-degrees-N, not only because the relatively large seasonal mean T(sy) there allows horizontal eddy currents to force strong anomalies, but also because the baroclinic eddies with wavelengths of almost-equal-to 800 km and periods of almost-equal-to 200 days are confined to the STCZ. Large meridional variability exists in many properties of the eddy field, much of which can be traced to the influence of the Sargasso Sea mean current field on eddy variability.