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Keywords:

  • mixed-layer dynamics;
  • boundary currents;
  • mesoscale eddies

[1] Mean and seasonal mixed-layer depths (MLDs) derived from an eddy-resolving ocean general circulation model with a horizontal resolution of (1/10)° are validated with climatological observations. Associated heat budgets on seasonal timescales are analyzed for six boundary current regions with high eddy kinetic energy (Somali Current, Agulhas Current region, Kuroshio, East Australian Current, Gulf Stream, and Brazil-Malvinas/Falkland Confluence). In all of these regions and on seasonal timescales, (a) horizontal advection significantly contributes to the mixed-layer heat budget (MLHB) on eddy scales and locally exceeds ±5°C/month; (b) lateral mixing (calculated as a residual term) is similar in size to surface net heat flux, horizontal advection, and vertical entrainment in defining the mixed-layer temperature; (c) seasonal vertical entrainment has a cooling effect on mixed-layer temperature throughout the year in the regions investigated; and (d) a phase lag between MLD and changes in mixed-layer heat content exists such that local cooling (warming) in the mixed layer precedes maxima (minima) in MLD by 1–3 months. A rather complex picture emerges where the MLHB in ocean boundary currents on larger spatial scales is determined by net surface heat fluxes and entrainment, whereas local, eddy-related advection and stirring modulate the large-scale signals.