Impact of ocean-atmosphere current feedback on ocean mesoscale activity: Regional variations and sensitivity to model resolution

Swen Jullien, Sébastien Masson, Véra Oerder, Guillaume Samson, François Colas, Lionel Renault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Ocean mesoscale eddies are characterized by rotating-like and meandering currents that imprint the low-level atmosphere. Such a current feedback (CFB) has been shown to induce a sink of energy from the ocean to the atmosphere, and consequently to damp the eddy kinetic energy (EKE), with an apparent regional disparity. In a context of increasing model resolution, the importance of this feedback and its dependence on oceanic and atmospheric model resolution arise. Using a hierarchy of quasi-global coupled models with spatial resolutions varying from 1/48 to 1/128, the present study shows that the CFB induces a negative wind work at scales ranging from 100 to 1000 km, and a subsequent damping of the mesoscale activity by; 30% on average, independently of the model resolution. Regional variations of this damping range from; 20% in very rich eddying regions to; 40% in poor eddying regions. This regional modulation is associated with a different balance between the sink of energy by eddy wind work and the source of EKE by ocean intrinsic instabilities. The efficiency of the CFB is also shown to be a function of the surface wind magnitude: the larger the wind, the larger the sink of energy. The CFB impact is thus related to both wind and EKE. Its correct representation requires both an ocean model that resolves the mesoscale field adequately and an atmospheric model resolution that matches the ocean effective resolution and allows a realistic representation of wind patterns. These results are crucial for including adequately mesoscale ocean-atmosphere interactions in coupled general circulation models and have strong implications in climate research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2585-2602
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020


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