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Categorization of High-Wind Events and Their Contribution to the Seasonal Breakdown of Stratification on the Southern New England Shelf
  • Lukas Lobert,
  • Glen G. Gawarkiewicz,
  • Albert J. Plueddemann
Lukas Lobert
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Corresponding Author:llobert@whoi.edu

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Glen G. Gawarkiewicz
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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Albert J. Plueddemann
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High-wind events predominantly cause the rapid breakdown of seasonal stratification on the continental shelf. Although previous studies have shown how coastal stratification depends on local wind-forcing characteristics, the locally observed ocean forcing has not yet been linked to regional atmospheric weather patterns that determine the local wind characteristics. Establishing such a connection is a necessary first step towards examining how an altered atmospheric forcing due to climate change affects coastal ocean conditions. Here, we propose a categorization scheme for high-wind events that links atmospheric forcing patterns with changes in stratification. We apply the scheme to the Southern New England shelf utilizing observations from the Ocean Observatories Initiative Coastal Pioneer Array (2015-2022). Impactful wind forcing patterns occur predominantly during early fall, have strong downwelling-favorable winds, and are primarily of two types: i) Cyclonic storms that propagate south of the continental shelf causing strong anticyclonically rotating winds, and ii) persistent large-scale high-pressure systems over eastern Canada causing steady north-easterly winds. These patterns are associated with opposite temperature and salinity contributions to destratification, implying differences in the dominant processes driving ocean mixing. Cyclonic storms are associated with the strongest local wind energy input and drive mechanical mixing and surface cooling. In contrast, steady downwelling-favorable winds from high-pressure systems likely advect salty and less buoyant Slope Water onto the shelf. The high-wind event categorization scheme allows a transition from solely focusing on local wind forcing to considering realistic atmospheric weather patterns when investigating their impact on stratification in the coastal ocean.
25 Feb 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
27 Feb 2023Published in ESS Open Archive