Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

8-8-2014

DOI

10.1002/2014JC010088

Abstract

Global observations of quasi-zonal jet-like structures have recently been reported in estimates of upper ocean circulation. To date, these observations have come primarily from float-derived and altimeter-derived estimates of zonal velocity. Here, we explore the existence of similar structures in the ocean using satellite-derived estimates of sea surface temperature (SST) from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for the Earth Observing System (AMSR-E). Applying an ocean front detection algorithm globally to microwave measurements of SST, we find that repeated ocean fronts occur along quasi-zonal bands in a multiyear (2002–2011) average of detections. Such a pattern is also observed in SST gradient magnitude. Composite analyses of SST, sea surface height (SSH), and upper ocean temperatures from Argo profiling floats suggest repeated fronts in the subtropics occur as a result of neighboring anticyclonic and cyclonic eddies. Horizontal advection in the presence of a background temperature gradient likely plays a role as evidenced by the tilt of temperature anomalies with depth. High gradient events found within the bands are observed to propagate westward with speed comparable to mesoscale eddies and we estimate these events explain 20% of the observed variance in SST gradient magnitude (2002–2011). In a final analysis, we regress the decay of the bands with averaging period and observe mild-to-strong persistence throughout much of the World Ocean. These findings support the view that propagating eddies help give rise to the bands. Whether or not eddies follow preferred paths remain unanswered.

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