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Wave-current Interactions in the California Current Region: Potential Implications for SWOT
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  • Ana Beatriz Villas Bôas,
  • Sarah Gille,
  • Matthew Mazloff,
  • Bruce Cornuelle
Ana Beatriz Villas Bôas

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Sarah Gille
University of California San Diego
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Matthew Mazloff
University of California San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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Bruce Cornuelle
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While waves propagating over a uniform current are simply subject to a Doppler shift of their phase, inhomogeneous flows can modify the wavenumber, direction, and amplitude of the waves, having the potential to largely modulate the surface wave field. Even though the theoretical basis for such interactions is well established, comprehensive observations and modeling of wave–current interactions are mostly limited to either tidal or large–scale currents and a lot remains unknown about how waves and currents interact when both fields are highly variable, such as near ocean fronts and eddies. In the present work, the extent to which the surface wave field off the California coast is modulated by the California Current System is investigated. Optimized currents and winds from a state estimate of the California Current System are used to force the wave model WaveWatch III in order to quantify the relative importance of local winds and currents in modulating the surface wave variability in this region. As satellite altimeters evolve towards resolving finer scales, knowing the wave field with precision may help the interpretation of sea surface height measurements at high wavenumbers and frequencies, which has particular relevance for the planning of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission.