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Lloyd Reese
,
Ulf Gräwe
,
Knut Klingbeil
,
Xiangyu Li
,
Marvin Lorenz
, and
Hans Burchard

Abstract

Salt mixing enables the transport of water between the inflow and outflow layers of estuarine circulation and therefore closes the circulation by driving a diahaline exchange flow. A recently derived universal law links the salt mixing inside an estuarine volume bounded by an isohaline surface to freshwater discharge: it states that on long-term average, the area-integrated mixing across the bounding isohaline is directly proportional to the freshwater discharge entering the estuary. However, even though numerous studies predict that periods of extreme discharge will become more frequent with climate change, the direct impact of such periods on estuarine mixing and circulation has yet to be investigated. Therefore, this numerical modeling study focuses on salinity mixing and diahaline exchange flows during a low-discharge and an extreme high-discharge period. To this end, we apply a realistic numerical setup of the Elbe estuary in northern Germany, using curvilinear coordinates that follow the navigational channel. This is the first time the direct relationship between diahaline exchange flow and salt mixing as well as the spatial distribution of the diahaline exchange flow is shown in a realistic tidal setup. The spatial distribution is highly correlated with the local mixing gradient for salinity, such that inflow occurs near the bottom at the upstream end of the isohaline. Meanwhile, outflow occurs near the surface at its downstream end. Last, increased vertical stratification occurs within the estuary during the high-discharge period, while estuarine-wide mixing strongly converges to the universal law for averaging periods of the discharge event time scale.

Significance Statement

Inside estuaries, such as river mouths, terrestrial freshwater is mixed with salty ocean water. This is accompanied by an estuarine circulation with inflow of saltwater into the estuary and outflow of brackish water toward the ocean. Here, we aim to better understand how salt mixing and estuarine circulation in a tidal estuary react to periods of extreme freshwater discharge. We find that even during extremely high or low discharge, salt mixing follows the freshwater discharge on time scales as short as days, and that estuarine circulation patterns are largely explained by the local distribution of mixing. As extreme runoff events are likely to occur more often with climate change, these findings may help to understand the dynamics inside future estuaries.

Open access
Dou Li
and
Xiaozhou Ruan

Abstract

Wind-driven upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water is a key feature near the eastern boundaries of major ocean basins, with significant implications for the local physical environment and marine ecosystems. Despite the traditional two-dimensional description of upwelling as a passive response to surface offshore Ekman transport, recent observations have revealed spatial variability in the circulation structures across different upwelling locations. Yet, a systematic understanding of the factors governing the spatial patterns of coastal upwelling remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate that coastal upwelling pathways are influenced by two pairs of competing factors. The first competition occurs between wind forcing and eddy momentum flux, which shapes the Eulerian-mean circulation; the second competition arises between the Eulerian-mean and eddy-induced circulation. The importance of nonlinear eddy momentum flux over sloping topography can be described by the local slope Burger number, S = αN/f, where α is the topographic slope angle and N and f are the buoyancy and Coriolis frequencies. When S is small, the classic coastal upwelling structure emerges in the residual circulation, where water upwells along the sloping bottom. However, this comes with the added complexity that mesoscale eddies may drive a subduction route back into the ocean interior. As S increases, the upwelling branch is increasingly suppressed, unable to reach the surface and instead directed offshore by the eddy-induced circulation. The sensitivity of upwelling structures to variable wind stress and surface buoyancy forcing is further explored. The diagnostics may help to improve our understanding of coastal upwelling systems and yield a more physical representation of coastal upwelling in coarse-resolution numerical models.

Restricted access
Yunwei Yan
,
Xiangzhou Song
,
Guihua Wang
, and
Xiaojing Li

Abstract

Cool-skin and warm-layer effects are important phenomena in the ocean–atmosphere system. Here, we study tropical cool-skin and warm-layer effects and their impact on surface heat fluxes using the methods proposed by Fairall et al. in 1996, i.e., the F96 cool-skin scheme and the combined warm-layer method. The results reveal strong cool-skin effects (∼−0.3 K) in the Indo-Pacific warm pool, but weak effects in the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic cold tongues. The spatial pattern of the cool-skin effect is determined by the difference in the specific humidity between the sea and air. The warm-layer effect is strong (∼0.25 K) in both the warm pool and cold tongues but weak in the trade wind regions and exhibits a spatial pattern that is inversely related to the surface wind speed. In the tropics, the cool-skin effect causes an average reduction of 11.0 W m−2 in the heat loss from the ocean to the atmosphere, while the warm-layer effect causes an increase of 6.0 W m−2. With respect to the F96 cool-skin scheme, four common wind-speed-dependent empirical models could not fully capture the spatial distribution of the cool-skin effect. A new empirical model that depends on the sea–air humidity difference is proposed to overcome this problem. Compared to the combined warm-layer method, when only the F96 warm-layer scheme is applied, the effect is underestimated at both low and high wind speeds. These new findings improve our understanding of the cool-skin and warm-layer effects and provide insights into their parameterization schemes.

Significance Statement

The aim of this study is to improve our understanding of tropical cool-skin and warm-layer effects and to examine their impact on surface heat fluxes. In addition, we evaluate the parameterization schemes for these effects to provide insights into their improvement in ocean–atmosphere coupled models. Our results indicate that the sea–air humidity difference is likely the most important factor influencing the tropical cool-skin effect. As a result, a new empirical model that depends on the sea–air humidity difference is proposed. Furthermore, we find that existing diagnostic models underestimate the impact of the warm-layer phenomenon on the ocean–atmosphere system. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an improved parameterization scheme, especially as synchronous near-surface temperature measurements become available.

Restricted access
Free access
Knut Klingbeil
and
Erika Henell

Abstract

In this paper we present the analytical derivation of a local water mass transformation (WMT) framework for an individual water column. We exactly formulate the mapping of the governing equations from geopotential coordinates to an arbitrary tracer space. Unique definitions for the local effective vertical diasurface fluxes are given. In tracer space we derive new relations between the local diatracer fluxes and the mixing per tracer class. The key relation between the effective vertical diatracer velocity and the mixing per tracer class directly formulates how the overturning circulation is linked to local tracer variance dissipation. Horizontal integration of the governing equations in tracer space and the relations between the diatracer quantities finally recovers the well-known integral WMT formulations.

Restricted access
Claire K. Yung
and
Ryan M. Holmes

Abstract

Time-varying processes contribute to ocean heat transport and are important to understand for accurate climate modeling. While past studies have quantified time-varying contributions to advective transport, less attention has been given to diabatic processes such as surface forcing and mixing. Using a global eddy-permitting ocean model we quantify the contribution of time-variable processes to meridional and diathermal (warm to cold) heat transport at different time scales using a temporal eddy-mean decomposition performed in the temperature–latitude plane. Time-varying contributions to meridional heat transport occur predominantly at mesoscale eddy-dominated midlatitudes and in the tropics, associated with the seasonal cycle and tropical instability waves. The seasonal cycle is a dominant driver of surface flux– and mixing-driven diathermal heat transports. Nonseasonal (and nondiurnal) processes contribute up to about 10% of the total. We show that transient contributions to diathermal heat transport can be interpreted as sources of Eulerian temperature variance. We thus extend recent work on the drivers of temperature variability by evaluating the role of mixing. Mixing dampens seasonal and diurnal temperature variability, except near the equator where it can be a source of seasonal variability. At mesoscale time scales mixing drives variability within and near the base of the boundary layer, the mechanisms of which are explored using a column model. We suggest that climate models that do not resolve the mesoscale may be missing the rectified heat transport associated with high-frequency diabatic processes, in addition to the adiabatic eddy fluxes that are commonly parameterized.

Significance Statement

Ocean heat transport plays a key role in determining how the climate responds to changes in forcing. This transport is influenced by a range of processes that vary with time. Previous research has quantified time-varying sources of lateral heat transport, such as mesoscale eddies and overturning circulation cells. However, time-varying “diabatic processes,” such as surface forcing and unresolved turbulent mixing, have received less attention. Here, we quantify these effects using a global ocean model. We find a dominant role for the seasonal cycle in driving diabatic heat transport, but processes on shorter time scales also contribute. Our results suggest that temporal variations in turbulent mixing are an important contributor to heat transport but may not be resolved in coarse-resolution climate models.

Restricted access
John M. Toole
,
Ruth C. Musgrave
,
Elizabeth C. Fine
,
Jacob M. Steinberg
, and
Richard A. Krishfield

Abstract

The vertical structure of subinertial variability is examined using full-depth horizontal velocity and vertical isopycnal displacement observations derived from the Ocean Observatory Initiative (OOI). Vertical profiles on time scales between 100 h and 1 yr or longer are characterized through empirical orthogonal function decomposition and qualitatively compared with theoretical modal predictions for the cases of flat, sloping, and rough bathymetry. OOI observations were obtained from mooring clusters at four deep-ocean sites: Argentine Basin, Southern Ocean, Station Papa, and Irminger Sea. Because no single OOI mooring in these arrays provides temperature, salinity, and horizontal velocity information over the full water column, sensor observations from two or more moorings are combined. Depths greater than ∼150–300 m were sampled by McLane moored profilers; in three of the four cases, two profilers were utilized on the moorings. Because of instrument failures on the deployments examined here, only ∼2 yr of full-ocean-depth observations are available from three of the four sites and some 3+ yr from the other. Results from the OOI “global” sites are contrasted with a parallel analysis of 3.5 yr of observations about the axis of the Gulf Stream where much of the subinertial variability is associated with stream meandering past the moorings. Looking across the observations, no universal vertical structure is found that characterizes the subinertial variability at the five sites examined; regional bathymetry, stratification, baroclinicity, nonlinearity, and the forcing (both local and remote) likely all play a role in shaping the vertical structure of the subinertial variability in individual ocean regions.

Restricted access
Chenyue Xie
,
Huaiyu Wei
, and
Yan Wang

Abstract

Mesoscale eddy buoyancy fluxes across continental slopes profoundly modulate the boundary current dynamics and shelf–ocean exchanges but have yet to be appropriately parameterized via the Gent–McWilliams (GM) scheme in predictive ocean models. In this work, we test the prognostic performance of multiple GM variants in noneddying simulations of upwelling slope fronts that are commonly found along the subtropical continental margins. The tested GM variants range from a set of constant eddy buoyancy diffusivities to recently developed energetically constrained, bathymetry-aware diffusivities, whose implementation is augmented by an artificial neural network (ANN) serving to predict the mesoscale eddy energy based on the topographic and mean flow quantities online. In addition, an ANN is employed to parameterize the cross-slope eddy momentum flux (EMF) that maintains a barotropic flow field analogous to that in an eddy-resolving model. Our tests reveal that noneddying simulations employing the bathymetry-aware forms of the Rhines scale–based scheme and GEOMETRIC scheme can most accurately reproduce the heat contents and along-slope baroclinic transports as those in the eddy-resolving simulations. Further analyses reveal certain degrees of physical consistency in the ANN-inferred eddy energy, which tends to grow (decay) as isopycnal slopes are steepened (flattened), and in the parameterized EMF, which exhibits the correct strength of shaping the flow baroclinicity if a bathymetry-aware GM variant is jointly used. These findings provide a recipe of GM variants for use in noneddying simulations with continental slopes and highlight the potential of machine learning techniques to augment physics-based mesoscale eddy parameterization schemes.

Significance Statement

This study evaluates the predictive skill of parameterization schemes of water mass transports induced by ocean mesoscale eddies across continental slopes. Correctly parameterizing these transports in noneddying ocean models (e.g., ocean climate models) is crucial for predicting the ocean circulation and shelf–ocean exchanges. This work highlights the importance of bathymetric effects on eddy transports, as parameterization schemes that account for the influence of a sloping seafloor outperform those developed specifically for a flat-bottomed ocean. This work also highlights the efficacy of machine learning techniques to augment physics-based mesoscale eddy parameterization schemes, for instance, by estimating the mesoscale eddy energy online to realize energy-dependent parameterization schemes in noneddying simulations.

Open access
Mingkun Lv
,
Fan Wang
, and
Yuanlong Li

Abstract

While mesoscale eddy-induced temperature and salinity (T and S) variations at depth levels were widely reported, those on isopycnal surfaces have been largely unexplored so far. This study investigates temperature and salinity anomalies (T′ and S′; dubbed “spiciness anomalies”) on isopycnal surfaces induced by mesoscale eddies in the Kuroshio Extension (KET) region, with a focus on the North Pacific Intermediate Water (NPIW) layer of 26.3–26.7σθ . Cyclonic eddies (CEs) and anticyclonic eddies (AEs) tend to cluster on the northern and southern flanks of the KET jet, respectively. These eddies are characterized by a large radius (CEs: 61.94 km; AEs: 68.05 km), limited zonal movement, and a tendency of meridional movement (CEs: 0.35 cm s−1 southward; AEs: 0.66 cm s−1 northward). The average eddy-induced T′ and S′ are −0.25°C (0.06°C) and −0.05 psu (0.01 psu) for CEs (AEs) in the 26.3–26.7σθ layer. We propose two mechanisms for the generation of subsurface spiciness anomalies, respectively, for moving eddies that travel over long distances with trapped waters and quasi-stationary meander eddies that are generated by the meanders of the KET front. The T′ and S′ induced by moving eddies cumulatively drive cross-front water exchanges. Meander eddies shift the position of the front and induce redistribution of properties. However, these anomalies do not contribute to heat and salt exchanges between water masses. This work provides a useful benchmark for model simulations of mesoscale isopycnal variability in subsurface waters.

Restricted access
Hemantha W. Wijesekera
,
Conrad A. Luecke
,
David W. Wang
,
Ewa Jarosz
,
Sergio DeRada
,
William J. Teague
,
Kyung-Il Chang
,
Jae Hak Lee
,
Hong-Sik Min
, and
SungHyun Nam

Abstract

Small-scale processes at the southwestern boundary of the Ulleung Basin (UB) in the Japan/East Sea (JES) were examined using combined ship-based and moored observations along with model output. Model results show baroclinic semidiurnal tides are generated at the shelf break and corresponding slope connecting the Korea/Tsushima Strait with the UB and propagate into the UB with large barotropic-to-baroclinic energy conversion over the slope. Observations show high-frequency internal wave packets and indicate strong velocity shear and energetic turbulence associated with baroclinic tides in the stratified bottom layer. Solitary-like waves with frequencies from 0.2N to 0.5N (buoyancy frequency N) were found at the edge of the shelf break with supercritical flow. For subcritical flow, a hydraulic jump formed over the shelf break with weakly dispersive internal lee waves with frequencies varying from 0.5N to N. These high-frequency lee waves were trapped in the stratified bottom layer, with wave stress similar to the turbulent stress near the bottom. The power loss due to turbulent bottom drag can be an important factor for energy loss associated with the hydraulic jump. Turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates of ∼10−4 W kg−1 were found. Large downward heat and salt fluxes below the high-salinity core mix warm/salty Tsushima Current Water with cold/low-salinity JES Intermediate Water. Mixing over the shelf break could be very important to the JES circulation since the calculated diapycnal upwelling (1–6 m day−1) at the shelf break and slope is substantially greater than the basin-averaged estimate from chemical tracers and modeling studies.

Significant Statement

The Japan/East Sea (JES) is a marginal sea, enclosed by Japan, Korea, and Russia. This study describes mixing processes over the shelf break connecting the northern Korea/Tsushima Strait (KTS) with the southern Ulleung Basin (UB), where the warm, high-salinity Kuroshio water carried by the Tsushima Current interacts with southward-flowing subsurface water masses in the JES. Our analysis suggests that the shelf break and slope between the KTS and the UB are vital areas for water-mass exchange in the southern JES. The enhanced mixing at the shelf break may impact water masses and circulation over the entire JES.

Open access