Articles | Volume 21, issue 4
Research article
29 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 29 Aug 2014

On quartet interactions in the California Current system

L. M. Ivanov, C. A. Collins, and T. M. Margolina

Abstract. Sea surface height (SSH) altimetry observations for 1992 to 2009 off California are used to show that observed quasi-zonal jets were likely driven by near-resonance interactions between different scales of the flow. Quartet (modulational) instability dominated and caused non-local transfer of energy from waves and eddies to biannual oscillations and quasi-zonal jets. Two types of quartets were identified: those composed of scales corresponding to (a) quasi-zonal jets, annual and semiannual Rossby waves and mesoscale eddies, and (b) biannual oscillations, semiannual Rossby waves and mesoscale eddies. The spectral centroid regularly shifted into the domain of low-order modes. However, the spectrum of SSHs does not demonstrate a power behavior. This says that the classical inverse cascade is absent. For a case with bottom friction, quartet instability required the existence of a certain level of dissipativity in the flow.