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Min Wang
,
Xiao-Hua Zhu
,
Hua Zheng
,
Juntian Chen
,
Ruixiang Zhao
,
Zhao-Jun Liu
,
Qiang Ren
,
Yansong Liu
,
Feng Nan
,
Fei Yu
,
Jianfeng Wang
, and
Qiang Li

Abstract

Energetic internal tides (ITs) are generated from the Luzon Strait (LS) and propagate westward into the South China Sea (SCS). Owing to the lack of large-scale synchronous measurements, the propagation features and seasonal variations of diurnal ITs remain unclear. From 2018 to 2019, mode-1 diurnal ITs west of the LS were continuously observed using a large-scale moored array of 27 pressure-recording inverted echo sounders (PIESs) and a thermistor chain. Measurements confirmed that diurnal ITs radiate from the LS with a north–south asymmetrical pattern, with the most energetic channel located in the middle and south of the LS. The total energy radiated into the SCS across 120°E is 2.67 GW for the K1 ITs and 1.54 GW for the O1 ITs, approximately 2 times larger than those inferred from satellite observations. K1 dominates among the diurnal ITs, with its maximum isopycnal displacement (amplitude) and energy input to the SCS being the strongest in summer (i.e., 16.3 m and 2.81 GW, respectively). The propagation speed of K1 is higher in summer and autumn along the main channel (i.e., 4.33and 4.36 m s−1, respectively). Seasonal stratification and circulation play important roles in the seasonal variation of amplitude and propagation speed of the K1 ITs. The seasonal variability of diurnal-band ITs, which includes all diurnal constituents, is location-dependent and primarily results from the superposition of the K1 and P1 ITs. In particular, vertical displacement is strong in summer and winter along the main channel of the K1 and P1 ITs. The seasonal amplitude of K1 can modulate this seasonal feature.

Significance Statement

Internal tides (ITs) are internal waves at tidal frequencies. The Luzon Strait (LS) is one of the most energetic sites to generate large-amplitude ITs. The ITs propagate into the South China Sea (SCS), interact with mesoscale eddies, large-scale circulations, etc., and influence local hydrodynamics as well as ecosystem and sediment transport. This motivated an observation plan to investigate the ITs at the western entrance of the LS. From June 2018 to August 2019, an array of 28 PIESs was deployed in the northeastern SCS, almost covering the western entrance of the LS, to investigate the propagation properties of ITs including their amplitude, phase speed, wavelength, propagation direction, and energy fluxes and their annual and seasonal variations. Here, we primarily focus on the mode-1 diurnal ITs. The new insights enrich our understanding of IT dynamics and seasonal variations and support further improvements in numerical simulations.

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Hao-Ran Zhang
,
Yi Yu
,
Zhibin Gao
,
Yanwei Zhang
,
Wentao Ma
,
Dezhou Yang
,
Baoshu Yin
, and
Yuntao Wang

Abstract

The spatiotemporal variability of oceanic fronts in the Indonesian seas was investigated using high-resolution satellite observations. The study aimed to understand the underlying mechanism driving these fronts and their impact on chlorophyll-a variability. A high value of frontal probability was found near the coasts of major islands, exhibiting a distinct seasonal cycle with peaks occurrences during austral winter. The distribution variability of chlorophyll-a was generally consistent with the presence of active frontal zones, although a significantly positive relationship between fronts and chlorophyll-a was limited to only some specific areas, e.g., south Java Island and the Celebes Sea. Wind-driven upwelling played a major role in front generation in the Java upwelling region and enhanced frontal activity can promote the growth of phytoplankton, leading to higher chlorophyll-a. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that wind patterns preceded variations in front probability and chlorophyll-a by approximately two months. This lag suggests that the spatiotemporal variability of fronts and chlorophyll-a in this region is primarily influenced by the monsoon system. In addition, the sea surface temperature (SST) simultaneously modulated the chlorophyll-a variability. Negative SST anomalies were typically associated with positive anomalies in front probability the chlorophyll-a in most areas. Notably, the interannual variability of fronts and chlorophyll-a are prominent in the Java upwelling region. During El Niño years, this region experienced an enhanced monsoon, resulting in a negative SST anomaly alongside positive anomalies in front probability and chlorophyll-a. A comprehensive description and underlying dynamics of frontal activity in the Indonesian seas are provided by this study. The findings are helpful to delineate the variability in chlorophyll-a, thereby facilitating the future understanding of local primary production and the carbon cycle.

Significance Statement

As typical mesoscale processes, oceanic fronts have significant impacts on biological processes and fisheries in marginal seas. The complex spatiotemporal variability of fronts and their effects on biological processes in the Indonesian seas remain poorly understood. This study aimed to address this knowledge gap by investigating the seasonal and interannual variability of fronts and their influence on chlorophyll-a, a key indicator of phytoplankton biomass and primary productivity. The study identified a high frontal probability in south Java Island during austral winter and El Niño years. Wind-driven upwelling was found to be a major factor in front generation and promoting phytoplankton growth. The findings of this study will improve the theoretical knowledge of regional dynamics, local primary production, and the carbon cycle in the Indonesian seas, benefiting fisheries management and ecosystem conservation efforts.

Open access
Callum J. Shakespeare

Abstract

Recent observations and numerical simulations have demonstrated the potential for significant interactions between mesoscale eddies and smaller-scale tidally generated internal waves—also known as internal tides. Here, we develop a simple theoretical model that predicts the one-way upscale transfer of energy from internal tides to mesoscale eddies through a critical level mechanism. We find that—in the presence of a critical level—the internal tide energy flux into an eddy is partitioned according to the wave frequency Ω and local inertial frequency f: a fraction of 1 − f/Ω is transferred to the eddy kinetic energy, while the remainder is viscously dissipated or supports mixing. These predictions are validated by comparison with a suite of numerical simulations. The simulations further show that the wave-driven energization of the eddies also accelerates the onset of hydrodynamical instabilities and the breakdown of the eddies, thereby increasing eddy kinetic energy, but reducing eddy lifetimes. Our estimates suggest that in regions of the ocean with both significant eddy fields and internal tides—such as parts of the Gulf Stream and Antarctic Circumpolar Current—the critical level effect could drive a ∼10% month−1 increase in the kinetic energy of a typical eddy. Our results provide a basis for parameterizing internal tide–eddy interactions in global ocean models where they are currently unrepresented.

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Huan Mei
,
Jianxin Dong
, and
Xiangbai Wu

Abstract

The influence of meridional shift of the oceanic subtropical front (STF) on the Agulhas Current (AC) regime shifts is studied using satellite altimeter data and a 1.5-layer ocean model. The satellite observations suggest the northward shift of the STF leads to the AC leaping across the gap with little Agulhas leakage, and the southward shift of the STF mainly results in the AC intruding into the Atlantic Ocean in the forms of a loop current and an eddy-shedding path, while there are three flow patterns of AC for moderate latitude of the STF. The ocean model results suggest no hysteresis (associated with multiple equilibrium states) exists in the AC system. The model reproduces similar AC regimes depending on different gap widths as in the observations, and model results can be used to explain the observed Agulhas leakage well. We also present the parameter space of the critical AC strength that results in different AC flow patterns as a function of the gap width. The vorticity dynamics of the AC regime shift suggests that the β term is mainly balanced by the viscosity term for the AC in the leaping and loop current paths, while the β and instantaneous vorticity terms are mainly balanced by the advection and viscosity terms for the AC in the eddy-shedding path. These findings help explain the dynamics of the AC flowing across the gateway beyond the tip of Africa affected by the north–south shift of the STF in the leaping regime or penetrating regime.

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Jacob O. Wenegrat

Abstract

Ocean surface currents introduce variations into the surface wind stress that can change the component of the stress aligned with the thermal wind shear at fronts. This modifies the Ekman buoyancy flux, such that the current feedback on the stress tends to generate an effective flux of buoyancy and potential vorticity to the mixed layer. Scaling arguments and idealized simulations resolving both mesoscale and submesoscale turbulence suggest that this pathway for air–sea interaction can be important both locally at individual submesoscale fronts with strong surface currents—where it can introduce equivalent advective heat fluxes exceeding several hundred watts per square meter—and in the spatial mean where it reduces the integrated Ekman buoyancy flux by approximately 50%. The accompanying source of surface potential vorticity injection suggests that at some fronts the current feedback modification of the Ekman buoyancy flux may be significant in terms of both submesoscale dynamics and boundary layer energetics, with an implied modification of symmetric instability growth rates and dissipation that scales similarly to the energy lost through the negative wind work generated by the current feedback. This provides an example of how the shift of dynamical regimes into the submesoscale may promote the importance of air–sea interaction mechanisms that differ from those most active at larger scale.

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Hui Zhang
,
Qiang Wang
,
Mu Mu
,
Kun Zhang
, and
Yu Geng

Abstract

Based on the conditional nonlinear optimal perturbation for boundary condition method and Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS), this study investigates the influence of wind stress uncertainty on predicting the short-term state transitions of the Kuroshio Extension (KE). The optimal time-dependent wind stress errors that lead to maximum prediction errors are obtained for two KE stable-to-unstable and two reverse transitions, which exhibit local multieddies structures with decreasing magnitude as the end time of prediction approaches. The optimal boundary errors initially induce small oceanic errors through Ekman pumping. Subsequently, these errors grow in magnitude as oceanic internal processes take effect, which exerts significant influences on the short-term prediction of the KE state transition process. Specifically, during stable-to-unstable (unstable-to-stable) transitions, the growing error induces an overestimation (underestimation) of the meridional sea surface height gradient across the KE axis, leading to the predicted KE state being more (less) stable. Furthermore, the dynamics mechanism analysis indicates that barotropic instability is crucial for the error growth in the prediction of both the stable-to-unstable and the reverse transition processes due to the horizontal shear of flow field. But work generated by wind stress error plays a more important role in the prediction of the unstable-to-stable transitions because of the synergistic effect of strong wind stress error and strong oceanic error. Eventually, the sensitive areas have been identified based on the optimal boundary errors. Reducing wind stress errors in sensitive areas can significantly improve prediction skills, offering theoretical guidance for devising observational strategies.

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Eric Kunze
,
Ren-Chieh Lien
,
Caitlin B. Whalen
,
James B. Girton
,
Barry Ma
, and
Maarten C. Buijsman

Abstract

Six profiling floats measured water-mass properties (T, S), horizontal velocities (u, υ), and microstructure thermal-variance dissipation rates χT in the upper ∼1 km of the Iceland and Irminger Basins in the eastern subpolar North Atlantic from June 2019 to April 2021. The floats drifted into slope boundary currents to travel counterclockwise around the basins. Pairs of velocity profiles half an inertial period apart were collected every 7–14 days. These half-inertial-period pairs are separated into subinertial eddy (sum) and inertial/semidiurnal (difference) motions. Eddy flow speeds are ∼O(0.1) m s−1 in the upper 400 m, diminishing to ∼O(0.01) m s−1 by ∼800-m depth. In late summer through early spring, near-inertial motions are energized in the surface layer and permanent pycnocline to at least 800-m depth almost simultaneously (within the 14-day temporal resolution), suggesting rapid transformation of large-horizontal-scale surface-layer inertial oscillations into near-inertial internal waves with high vertical group velocities through interactions with eddy vorticity gradients (effective β). During the same period, internal-wave vertical shear variance was 2–5 times canonical midlatitude magnitudes and dominantly clockwise-with-depth (downward energy propagation). In late spring and early summer, shear levels are comparable to canonical midlatitude values and dominantly counterclockwise-with-depth (upward energy propagation), particularly over major topographic ridges. Turbulent diapycnal diffusivities KO(10−4) m2 s−1 are an order of magnitude larger than canonical midlatitude values. Depth-averaged (10–1000 m) diffusivities exhibit factor-of-3 month-by-month variability with minima in early August.

Open access
Free access
Yangcheng Luo
and
Jörn Callies

Abstract

Submesoscale turbulence in the upper ocean consists of fronts, filaments, and vortices that have horizontal scales on the order of 100 m to 10 km. High-resolution numerical simulations have suggested that submesoscale turbulence is associated with strong vertical motion that could substantially enhance the vertical exchange between the thermocline and mixed layer, which may have an impact on marine ecosystems and climate. Theoretical, numerical, and observational work indicates that submesoscale turbulence is energized primarily by baroclinic instability in the mixed layer, which is most vigorous in winter. This study demonstrates how such mixed layer baroclinic instabilities induce vertical exchange by drawing filaments of thermocline water into the mixed layer. A scaling law is proposed for the dependence of the exchange on environmental parameters. Linear stability analysis and nonlinear simulations indicate that the exchange, quantified by how much thermocline water is entrained into the mixed layer, is proportional to the mixed layer depth, is inversely proportional to the Richardson number of the thermocline, and increases with increasing Richardson number of the mixed layer. The results imply that the tracer exchange between the thermocline and mixed layer is more efficient when the mixed layer is thicker, when the mixed layer stratification is stronger, when the lateral buoyancy gradient is stronger, and when the thermocline stratification is weaker. The scaling suggests vigorous exchange between the permanent thermocline and deep mixed layers in winter, especially in mode water formation regions.

Significance Statement

This study examines how instabilities in the surface layer of the ocean bring interior water up from below. This interior–surface exchange can be important for dissolved gases such as carbon dioxide and oxygen as well as nutrients fueling biological growth in the surface ocean. A scaling law is proposed for the dependence of the exchange on environmental parameters. The results of this study imply that the exchange is particularly strong if the well-mixed surface layer is thick, lateral density gradients are strong (such as at fronts), and the stratification below the surface layer is weak. These theoretical findings can be implemented in boundary layer parameterization schemes in global ocean models and improve our understanding of the marine ecosystem and how the ocean mediates climate change.

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Eiji Masunaga
,
Matthew H. Alford
,
Andrew J. Lucas
, and
Andrea Rodriguez-Marin Freudmann

Abstract

This study investigates three-dimensional semidiurnal internal tide (IT) energetics in the vicinity of La Jolla Canyon, a steep shelf submarine canyon off the Southern California coast, with the Stanford Unstructured Nonhydrostatic Terrain-Following Adaptive Navier–Stokes Simulator (SUNTANS) numerical simulator. Numerical simulations show vertical structure and temporal phasing consistent with detailed field observations. ITs induce large (approximately 34 m from peak to peak) isotherm displacements and net onshore IT energy flux up to 200 W m−1. Although the net IT energy flux is onshore, the steep supercritical slope around the canyon results in strong reflection. The model provides the full life span of internal tides around the canyon, including internal tide generation, propagation, and dissipation. ITs propagate into the canyon from the south and are reflected back toward offshore from the canyon’s north side. In the inner part of the canyon, elevated mixing occurs in the middle layer due to an interaction between incident mode-1 ITs and reflected higher-mode ITs. The magnitude of IT flux, generation, and dissipation on the south side of the canyon are higher than those on the north side. An interference pattern in horizontal kinetic energy and available potential energy with a scale of approximately 20–50 km arises due to low-mode wave reflections. Our results provide new insight into IT dynamics associated with a small-scale canyon topography.

Significance Statement

Internal waves play an important role in ocean circulations and ecosystems. In particular, internal waves with frequencies of tides, known as internal tides, strongly enhance energy, heat, and mass transport in coastal oceans. This study presents internal tide dynamics in La Jolla Canyon, California, using a high-resolution numerical model. Model results show energy convergence in the canyon leading to internal tide energy dissipation and mixing. Some parts of internal tide energy reflect back offshore resulting in standing internal waves off California. This study provides new insights into internal tide dynamics and energy budgets in submarine canyons.

Open access