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Dhruv Balwada, Joseph H. LaCasce, Kevin G. Speer, and Raffaele Ferrari

Abstract

Stirring in the subsurface Southern Ocean is examined using RAFOS float trajectories, collected during the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES), along with particle trajectories from a regional eddy permitting model. A central question is the extent to which the stirring is local, by eddies comparable in size to the pair separation, or nonlocal, by eddies at larger scales. To test this, we examine metrics based on averaging in time and in space. The model particles exhibit nonlocal dispersion, as expected for a limited resolution numerical model that does not resolve flows at scales smaller than ~10 days or ~20–30 km. The different metrics are less consistent for the RAFOS floats; relative dispersion, kurtosis, and relative diffusivity suggest nonlocal dispersion as they are consistent with the model within error, while finite-size Lyapunov exponents (FSLE) suggests local dispersion. This occurs for two reasons: (i) limited sampling of the inertial length scales and a relatively small number of pairs hinder statistical robustness in time-based metrics, and (ii) some space-based metrics (FSLE, second-order structure functions), which do not average over wave motions and are reflective of the kinetic energy distribution, are probably unsuitable to infer dispersion characteristics if the flow field includes energetic wave motions that do not disperse particles. The relative diffusivity, which is also a space-based metric, allows averaging over waves to infer the dispersion characteristics. Hence, given the error characteristics of the metrics and data used here, the stirring in the DIMES region is likely to be nonlocal at scales of 5–100 km.

Open access
Matthew S. Spydell, Falk Feddersen, and Jamie Macmahan

Abstract

Oceanographic relative dispersion Dr2 (based on drifter separations r) has been extensively studied, mostly finding either Richardson–Obukhov (Dr2~t3) or enstrophy cascade [Dr2~exp(t)] scaling. Relative perturbation dispersion Dr2 (based on perturbation separation rr 0, where r 0 is the initial separation) has a Batchelor scaling (Dr2~t2) for times less than the r 0-dependent Batchelor time. Batchelor scaling has received little oceanographic attention. GPS-equipped surface drifters were repeatedly deployed on the Inner Shelf off of Pt. Sal, California, in water depths ≤ 40 m. From 12 releases of ≈18 drifters per release, perturbation and regular relative dispersion over ≈4 h are calculated for 250 ≤ r 0 ≤ 1500 m for each release and the entire experiment. The perturbation dispersion Dr2 is consistent with Batchelor scaling for the first 1000–3000 s with larger r 0 yielding stronger dispersion and larger Batchelor times. At longer times, Dr2 and scale-dependent diffusivities begin to suggest Richardson–Obukhov scaling. This applies to both experiment averaged and individual releases. For individual releases, nonlinear internal waves can modulate dispersion. Batchelor scaling is not evident in Dr2 as the correlations between initial and later separations are significant at short time scaling as ~t. Thus, previous studies investigating Dr2(t) are potentially aliased by initial separation effects not present in the perturbation dispersion Dr2(t). As the underlying turbulent velocity wavenumber spectra is inferred from the dispersion power law time dependence, analysis of both Dr2 and Dr2 is critical.

Open access
Suyash Bire and Christopher L.P. Wolfe

Abstract

The zonal and meridional overturning circulations of buoyancy-forced basins are studied in an eddy-resolving model. The zonal overturning circulation (ZOC) is driven by the meridional gradient of buoyancy at the surface and stratification at the southern boundary. The ZOC, in turn, produces zonal buoyancy gradients through upwelling and downwelling at the western and eastern boundaries, respectively. The meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is driven by these zonal gradients rather than being directly driven by meridional gradients. Eddies lead to a broadening of the upwelling and downwelling limbs of the ZOC, as well as a decoupling of the locations of vertical and diapycnal transport. This broadening is more prominent on the eastern boundary, where westward-moving eddies transport warm water away from a poleward-flowing eastern boundary current. Most of the diapycnal downwelling occurs in the “swash zone”—the region where the isopycnals intermittently come in contact with the surface and lose buoyancy to the atmosphere. A scaling for the overturning circulations, which depends on the background stratification and the surface buoyancy gradient, is derived and found to be an excellent fit to the numerical experiments.

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Madeleine M. Hamann, Matthew H. Alford, Andrew J. Lucas, Amy F. Waterhouse, and Gunnar Voet

Abstract

The La Jolla Canyon System (LJCS) is a small, steep, shelf-incising canyon offshore of San Diego, California. Observations conducted in the fall of 2016 capture the dynamics of internal tides and turbulence patterns. Semidiurnal (D2) energy flux was oriented up-canyon; 62% ± 20% of the signal was contained in mode 1 at the offshore mooring. The observed mode-1 D2 tide was partly standing based on the ratio of group speed times energy c g E and energy flux F. Enhanced dissipation occurred near the canyon head at middepths associated with elevated strain arising from the standing wave pattern. Modes 2–5 were progressive, and energy fluxes associated with these modes were oriented down-canyon, suggesting that incident mode-1 waves were back-reflected and scattered. Flux integrated over all modes across a given canyon cross section was always onshore and generally decreased moving shoreward (from 240 ± 15 to 5 ± 0.3 kW), with a 50-kW increase in flux occurring on a section inshore of the canyon’s major bend, possibly due to reflection of incident waves from the supercritical sidewalls of the bend. Flux convergence from canyon mouth to head was balanced by the volume-integrated dissipation observed. By comparing energy budgets from a global compendium of canyons with sufficient observations (six in total), a similar balance was found. One exception was Juan de Fuca Canyon, where such a balance was not found, likely due to its nontidal flows. These results suggest that internal tides incident at the mouth of a canyon system are dissipated therein rather than leaking over the sidewalls or siphoning energy to other wave frequencies.

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Dong Wang and Tobias Kukulka

Abstract

This study investigates the dynamics of velocity shear and Reynolds stress in the ocean surface boundary layer for idealized misaligned wind and wave fields using a large-eddy simulation (LES) model based on the Craik–Leibovich equations, which captures Langmuir turbulence (LT). To focus on the role of LT, the LES experiments omit the Coriolis force, which obscures a stress–current-relation analysis. Furthermore, a vertically uniform body force is imposed so that the volume-averaged Eulerian flow does not accelerate but is steady. All simulations are first spun-up without wind-wave misalignment to reach a fully developed stationary turbulent state. Then, a crosswind Stokes drift profile is abruptly imposed, which drives crosswind stresses and associated crosswind currents without generating volume-averaged crosswind currents. The flow evolves to a new stationary state, in which the crosswind Reynolds stress vanishes while the crosswind Eulerian shear and Stokes drift shear are still present, yielding a misalignment between Reynolds stress and Lagrangian shear (sum of Eulerian current and Stokes drift). A Reynolds stress budgets analysis reveals a balance between stress production and velocity–pressure gradient terms (VPG) that encloses crosswind Eulerian shear, demonstrating a complex relation between shear and stress. In addition, the misalignment between Reynolds stress and Eulerian shear generates a horizontal turbulent momentum flux (due to correlations of along-wind and crosswind turbulent velocities) that can be important in producing Reynolds stress (due to correlations of horizontal and vertical turbulent velocities). Thus, details of the Reynolds stress production by Eulerian and Stokes drift shear may be critical for driving upper-ocean currents and for accurate turbulence parameterizations in misaligned wind-wave conditions.

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Baolan Wu, Xiaopei Lin, and Lisan Yu

Abstract

The meridional shift of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) front and changes in the formation of the North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water (STMW) during 1979–2018 are reported. The surface-to-subsurface structure of the KE front averaged over 142°–165°E has shifted poleward at a rate of ~0.23° ± 0.16° decade−1. The shift was caused mainly by the poleward shift of the downstream KE front (153°–165°E, ~0.41° ± 0.29° decade−1) and barely by the upstream KE front (142°–153°E). The long-term shift trend of the KE front showed two distinct behaviors before and after 2002. Before 2002, the surface KE front moved northward with a faster rate than the subsurface. After 2002, the surface KE front showed no obvious trend, but the subsurface KE front continued to move northward. The ventilation zone of the STMW, defined by the area between the 16° and 18°C isotherms or between the 25 and 25.5 kg m−3 isopycnals, contracted and displaced northward with a shoaling of the mixed layer depth h m before 2002 when the KE front moved northward. The STMW subduction rate was reduced by 0.76 Sv (63%; 1 Sv ≡ = 106 m3 s−1) during 1979–2018, most of which occurred before 2002. Of the three components affecting the total subduction rate, the temporal induction (−∂h m/∂t) was dominant accounting for 91% of the rate reduction, while the vertical pumping (−w mb) amounted to 8% and the lateral induction (−u mb ⋅ ∇h m) was insignificant. The reduced temporal induction was attributed to both the contracted ventilation zone and the shallowed h m that were incurred by the poleward shift of KE front.

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Yang Yang, James C. McWilliams, X. San Liang, Hong Zhang, Robert H. Weisberg, Yonggang Liu, and Dimitris Menemenlis

Abstract

The submesoscale energetics of the eastern Gulf of Mexico (GoM) are diagnosed using outputs from a 1/48° MITgcm simulation. Employed is a recently developed, localized multiscale energetics formalism with three temporal-scale ranges (or scale windows), namely, a background flow window, a mesoscale window, and a submesoscale window. It is found that the energy cascades are highly inhomogeneous in space. Over the eastern continental slope of the Campeche Bank, the submesoscale eddies are generated via barotropic instability, with forward cascades of kinetic energy (KE) following a weak seasonal variation. In the deep basin of the eastern GoM, the submesoscale KE exhibits a seasonal cycle, peaking in winter, maintained via baroclinic instability, with forward available potential energy (APE) cascades in the mixed layer, followed by a strong buoyancy conversion. A spatially coherent pool of inverse KE cascade is found to extract energy from the submesoscale KE reservoir in this region to replenish the background flow. The northern GoM features the strongest submesoscale signals with a similar seasonality as seen in the deep basin. The dominant source for the submesoscale KE during winter is from buoyancy conversion and also from the forward KE cascades from mesoscale processes. To maintain the balance, the excess submesoscale KE must be dissipated by smaller-scale processes via a forward cascade, implying a direct route to finescale dissipation. Our results highlight that the role of submesoscale turbulence in the ocean energy cycle is region and time dependent.

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Ruichen Zhu, Zhaohui Chen, Zhiwei Zhang, Haiyuan Yang, and Lixin Wu

Abstract

Subthermocline eddies (STEs), also termed intrathermocline eddies or submesoscale coherent vortices, are lens-shaped eddies with anomalous water properties located in or below the thermocline. Although STEs have been discovered in many parts of the World Ocean, most of them were observed accidentally in hydrographic profiles, and direct velocity measurements are very rare. In this study, dynamic features of STEs in the Kuroshio Extension (KE) region are examined in detail using concurrent temperature/salinity and velocity measurements from mooring arrays. During the moored observation periods of 2004–06 and 2015–19, 11 single-core STEs, including 8 with warm/salty cores and 3 with cold/fresh cores, were captured. The thermohaline properties in their cores suggest that these STEs may originate from the subarctic front and the upstream Kuroshio south of Japan. The estimated radius of these STEs varied from 8 to 66 km with the mean value of ~30 km. The warm/salty STEs seemed to be larger and rotate faster than the cold/fresh ones. In addition to single-core STEs, a dual-core STE was observed in the KE recirculation region, which showed that the upper cold/fresh cores stacked vertically over the lower warm/salty cores. Based on the observed parameters of the STEs, their Rossby number and Burger number were further estimated, with values up to 0.5 and 1, respectively. Furthermore, a low Richardson number O (0.25) was found at the periphery of these STEs, suggesting that shear instability-induced turbulent mixing may be an erosion route for the STEs.

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Leo Middleton, Catherine A. Vreugdenhil, Paul R. Holland, and John R. Taylor

Abstract

The transport of heat and salt through turbulent ice shelf–ocean boundary layers is a large source of uncertainty within ocean models of ice shelf cavities. This study uses small-scale, high-resolution, 3D numerical simulations to model an idealized boundary layer beneath a melting ice shelf to investigate the influence of ambient turbulence on double-diffusive convection (i.e., convection driven by the difference in diffusivities between salinity and temperature). Isotropic turbulence is forced throughout the simulations and the temperature and salinity are initialized with homogeneous values similar to observations. The initial temperature and the strength of forced turbulence are varied as controlling parameters within an oceanographically relevant parameter space. Two contrasting regimes are identified. In one regime double-diffusive convection dominates, and in the other convection is inhibited by the forced turbulence. The convective regime occurs for high temperatures and low turbulence levels, where it is long lived and affects the flow, melt rate, and melt pattern. A criterion for identifying convection in terms of the temperature and salinity profiles, and the turbulent dissipation rate, is proposed. This criterion may be applied to observations and theoretical models to quantify the effect of double-diffusive convection on ice shelf melt rates.

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Clément Vic, Bruno Ferron, Virginie Thierry, Herlé Mercier, and Pascale Lherminier

Abstract

Internal waves in the semidiurnal and near-inertial bands are investigated using an array of seven moorings located over the Reykjanes Ridge in a cross-ridge direction (57.6°–59.1°N, 28.5°–33.3°W). Continuous measurements of horizontal velocity and temperature for more than 2 years allow us to estimate the kinetic energy density and the energy fluxes of the waves. We found that there is a remarkable phase locking and linear relationship between the semidiurnal energy density and the tidal energy conversion at the spring–neap cycle. The energy-to-conversion ratio gives replenishment time scales of 4–5 days on the ridge top versus 7–9 days on the flanks. Altogether, these results demonstrate that the bulk of the tidal energy on the ridge comes from near-local sources, with a redistribution of energy from the top to the flanks, which is endorsed by the energy fluxes oriented in the cross-ridge direction. Implications for tidally driven energy dissipation are discussed. The time-averaged near-inertial kinetic energy is smaller than the semidiurnal kinetic energy by a factor of 2–3 but is much more variable in time. It features a strong seasonal cycle with a winter intensification and subseasonal peaks associated with local wind bursts. The ratio of energy to wind work gives replenishment time scales of 13–15 days, which is consistent with the short time scales of observed variability of near-inertial energy. In the upper ocean (1 km), the highest levels of near-inertial energy are preferentially found in anticyclonic structures, with a twofold increase relative to cyclonic structures, illustrating the funneling effect of anticyclones.

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