Energy and Momentum of a Density-Driven Overflow in the Samoan Passage

Gunnar Voet aScripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Matthew H. Alford aScripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California

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Jesse M. Cusack aScripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
bCollege of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

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Larry J. Pratt cWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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James B. Girton dApplied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Glenn S. Carter eDepartment of Oceanography, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Jody M. Klymak fUniversity of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Shuwen Tan gLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York
hUniversity of California, Irvine, Irvine, California

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Andreas M. Thurnherr gLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York

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Abstract

The energy and momentum balance of an abyssal overflow across a major sill in the Samoan Passage is estimated from two highly resolved towed sections, set 16 months apart, and results from a two-dimensional numerical simulation. Driven by the density anomaly across the sill, the flow is relatively steady. The system gains energy from divergence of horizontal pressure work O ( 5 ) kW m 1 and flux of available potential energy O ( 2 ) kW m 1 . Approximately half of these gains are transferred into kinetic energy while the other half is lost to turbulent dissipation, bottom drag, and divergence in vertical pressure work. Small-scale internal waves emanating downstream of the sill within the overflow layer radiate O ( 1 ) kW m 1 upward but dissipate most of their energy within the dense overflow layer and at its upper interface. The strongly sheared and highly stratified upper interface acts as a critical layer inhibiting any appreciable upward radiation of energy via topographically generated lee waves. Form drag of O ( 2 ) N m 2 , estimated from the pressure drop across the sill, is consistent with energy lost to dissipation and internal wave fluxes. The topographic drag removes momentum from the mean flow, slowing it down and feeding a countercurrent aloft. The processes discussed in this study combine to convert about one-third of the energy released from the cross-sill density difference into turbulent mixing within the overflow and at its upper interface. The observed and modeled vertical momentum flux divergence sustains gradients in shear and stratification, thereby maintaining an efficient route for abyssal water mass transformation downstream of this Samoan Passage sill.

This article is included in the Oceanic Flow–Topography Interations Special Collection.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Gunnar Voet, gvoet@ucsd.edu

Abstract

The energy and momentum balance of an abyssal overflow across a major sill in the Samoan Passage is estimated from two highly resolved towed sections, set 16 months apart, and results from a two-dimensional numerical simulation. Driven by the density anomaly across the sill, the flow is relatively steady. The system gains energy from divergence of horizontal pressure work O ( 5 ) kW m 1 and flux of available potential energy O ( 2 ) kW m 1 . Approximately half of these gains are transferred into kinetic energy while the other half is lost to turbulent dissipation, bottom drag, and divergence in vertical pressure work. Small-scale internal waves emanating downstream of the sill within the overflow layer radiate O ( 1 ) kW m 1 upward but dissipate most of their energy within the dense overflow layer and at its upper interface. The strongly sheared and highly stratified upper interface acts as a critical layer inhibiting any appreciable upward radiation of energy via topographically generated lee waves. Form drag of O ( 2 ) N m 2 , estimated from the pressure drop across the sill, is consistent with energy lost to dissipation and internal wave fluxes. The topographic drag removes momentum from the mean flow, slowing it down and feeding a countercurrent aloft. The processes discussed in this study combine to convert about one-third of the energy released from the cross-sill density difference into turbulent mixing within the overflow and at its upper interface. The observed and modeled vertical momentum flux divergence sustains gradients in shear and stratification, thereby maintaining an efficient route for abyssal water mass transformation downstream of this Samoan Passage sill.

This article is included in the Oceanic Flow–Topography Interations Special Collection.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Gunnar Voet, gvoet@ucsd.edu
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