Categorization of High‐Wind Events and Their Contribution to the Seasonal Breakdown of Stratification on the Southern New England Shelf

TitleCategorization of High‐Wind Events and Their Contribution to the Seasonal Breakdown of Stratification on the Southern New England Shelf
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsLobert, L, Gawarkiewicz, G, Plueddemann, A
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research - Oceans
Keywords13 Climate Action, continental shelf, destratification, OOI Coastal Pioneer, storm categorization, stratification breakdown, synoptic meteorology

High-wind events predominantly cause the rapid breakdown of seasonal stratification on the continental shelf by the end of October. In particular the timing of events leads to considerable interannual variability in the stratification breakdown with a standard deviation of 15 days. 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 toward 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: (a) Cyclonic storms that propagate south of the continental shelf causing anticyclonically rotating winds, and (b) persistent large-scale high-pressure systems over East 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 based on a high-wind pattern's overall strength and wind direction steadiness. 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.