Seasonal variability of the Gulf Stream kinetic energy

Dujuan Kang, Enrique N. Curchitser, Anthony Rosati

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14 Scopus citations


The seasonal variability of the mean kinetic energy (MKE) and eddy kinetic energy (EKE) of the Gulf Stream (GS) is examined using high-resolution regional ocean model simulations. A set of three numerical experiments with different surface wind and buoyancy forcing is analyzed to investigate the mechanisms governing the seasonal cycle of upper ocean energetics. In the GS along-coast region, MKE has a significant seasonal cycle that peaks in summer, while EKE has two comparable peaks in May and September near the surface; the May peak decays rapidly with depth. In the off-coast region, MKE has a weak seasonal cycle that peaks in summer, while EKE has a dominant peak in May and a secondary peak in September near the surface. The May peak also decays with depth leaving the September peak as the only seasonal signal below 100 m. An analysis of the three numerical experiments suggests that the seasonal variability in the local wind forcing significantly impacts the September peak of the along-coast EKE through a local-flow barotropic instability process. Alternatively, the seasonal buoyancy forcing primarily impacts the flow baroclinic instability and is consequently related to the May peak of the upper ocean EKE in both regions. The analysis results indicate that the seasonal cycle of the along-coast MKE is influenced by both local energy generation by wind and the advection of energy from upstream regions. Finally, the MKE cycle and the September peak of EKE in the off-coast region are mainly affected by advection of energy from remote regions, giving rise to correlations with the seasonal cycle of remote winds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1189-1207
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography


  • Atm/ocean structure/phenomena
  • Circulation/dynamics
  • Currents
  • Eddies
  • Geographic location/entity
  • Models and modeling
  • North atlantic ocean
  • Numerical analysis/modeling
  • Seasonal variability
  • Variability

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