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Gianluca Meneghello, John Marshall, Camille Lique, Pål Erik Isachsen, Edward Doddridge, Jean-Michel Campin, Heather Regan, and Claude Talandier

Abstract

Observations of ocean currents in the Arctic interior show a curious, and hitherto unexplained, vertical and temporal distribution of mesoscale activity. A marked seasonal cycle is found close to the surface: strong eddy activity during summer, observed from both satellites and moorings, is followed by very quiet winters. In contrast, subsurface eddies persist all year long within the deeper halocline and below. Informed by baroclinic instability analysis, we explore the origin and evolution of mesoscale eddies in the seasonally ice-covered interior Arctic Ocean. We find that the surface seasonal cycle is controlled by friction with sea ice, dissipating existing eddies and preventing the growth of new ones. In contrast, subsurface eddies, enabled by interior potential vorticity gradients and shielded by a strong stratification at a depth of approximately 50 m, can grow independently of the presence of sea ice. A high-resolution pan-Arctic ocean model confirms that the interior Arctic basin is baroclinically unstable all year long at depth. We address possible implications for the transport of water masses between the margins and the interior of the Arctic basin, and for climate models’ ability to capture the fundamental difference in mesoscale activity between ice-covered and ice-free regions.

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J. S. Kenigson and M.-L. Timmermans

Abstract

The hydrography of the Nordic seas, a critical site for deep convective mixing, is controlled by various processes. On one hand, Arctic Ocean exports are thought to freshen the North Atlantic Ocean and the Nordic seas, as in the Great Salinity Anomalies (GSAs) of the 1970s–1990s. On the other hand, the salinity of the Nordic seas covaries with that of the Atlantic inflow across the Greenland–Scotland Ridge, leaving an uncertain role for Arctic Ocean exports. In this study, multidecadal time series (1950–2018) of the Nordic seas hydrography, Subarctic Front (SAF) in the North Atlantic Ocean [separating the water masses of the relatively cool, fresh Subpolar Gyre (SPG) from the warm, saline Subtropical Gyre (STG)], and atmospheric forcing are examined and suggest a unified view. The Nordic seas freshwater content is shown to covary on decadal time scales with the position of the SAF. When the SPG is strong, the SAF shifts eastward of its mean position, increasing the contribution of subpolar relative to subtropical source water to the Atlantic inflow, and vice versa. This suggests that Arctic Ocean fluxes primarily influence the hydrography of the Nordic seas via indirect means (i.e., by freshening the SPG). Case studies of two years with anomalous NAO conditions illustrate how North Atlantic Ocean dynamics relate to the position of the SAF (as indicated by hydrographic properties and stratification changes in the upper water column), and therefore to the properties of the Atlantic inflow and Nordic seas.

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Zhiyou Jing, Baylor Fox-Kemper, Haijin Cao, Ruixi Zheng, and Yan Du

Abstract

Submesoscale density fronts and the associated processes of frontogenesis and symmetric instability (SI) are investigated in the northwest Pacific subtropical countercurrent (STCC) system by a high-resolution simulation and diagnostic analysis. Both satellite observations and realistic simulation show active surface fronts with a horizontal scale of ~20 km in the STCC upper ocean. Frontogenesis-induced buoyancy advection is detected to rapidly sharpen these density fronts. The direct straining effect of larger-scale geostrophic flows is a primary influence on the buoyancy-gradient frontogenetic tendency and frontal baroclinic potential vorticity (PV) enhancement. The enhanced lateral buoyancy gradients in conjunction with atmospheric forced surface buoyancy loss can produce a negative Ertel PV and trigger frontal SI in the STCC region. Up to 30% of the mixed layer (ML) inside a typical eddy has negative PV in the high-resolution simulation. As a result, the cross-front ageostrophic secondary circulations tend to restratify the surface boundary layer and induce a large vertical velocity reaching ~100 m day−1, substantially facilitating the vertical communication of the STCC system. At the same time, the SI is identified to be responsible for a forward cascade of geostrophic kinetic energy in the STCC region, despite the coexistence of ML eddies and SI in the deep winter ML. Therefore, these active density fronts and their SI-associated submesoscale processes play important roles in the enhanced vertical exchanges (e.g., heat, nutrients, and carbon) and energy transfer to smaller scales in the eddy-active STCC upper ocean, as well as triggering phytoplankton blooms at the periphery of eddies.

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Edward D. Zaron and Shane Elipot

Abstract

The accuracy of three data-constrained barotropic ocean tide models is assessed by comparison with data from geodetic mission altimetry and ocean surface drifters, data sources chosen for their independence from the observational data used to develop the tide models. Because these data sources do not provide conventional time series at single locations suitable for harmonic analysis, model performance is evaluated using variance reduction statistics. The results distinguish between shallow and deep-water evaluations of the GOT410, TPXO9A, and FES2014 models; however, a hallmark of the comparisons is strong geographic variability that is not well summarized by global performance statistics. The models exhibit significant regionally coherent differences in performance that should be considered when choosing a model for a particular application. Quantitatively, the differences in explained SSH variance between the models in shallow water are only 1%–2% of the root-mean-square (RMS) tidal signal of about 50 cm, but the differences are larger at high latitudes, more than 10% of 30-cm RMS. Differences with respect to tidal currents variance are strongly influenced by small scales in shallow water and are not well represented by global averages; therefore, maps of model differences are provided. In deep water, the performance of the models is practically indistinguishable from one another using the present data. The foregoing statements apply to the eight dominant astronomical tides M2, S2, N2, K2, K1, O1, P1, and Q1. Variance reduction statistics for smaller tides are generally not accurate enough to differentiate the models’ performance.

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N. Jithendra Raju, Mihir K. Dash, Prasad Kumar Bhaskaran, and P. C. Pandey

Abstract

Strong bidirectional internal solitary waves (ISWs) generate from a shallow channel between Car Nicobar and Chowra Islands of Nicobar Islands, India, and propagate toward the Andaman Sea (eastward) and Bay of Bengal (westward). Batti Malv Island separates this shallow channel into two ridges, north of Batti Malv (NBM) and south of Batti Malv (SBM). First, this study identifies the prominent mode-1 and mode-2 ISWs emerging from NBM and SBM using synthetic aperture radar images and then explores their generation mechanism(s) using a nonlinear, unstructured, and nonhydrostatic model, SUNTANS. During spring tide, flow over NBM is supercritical with respect to mode-1 internal wave. Model simulations reveal that mode-1 ISWs are generated at NBM by a “lee wave mechanism” and propagate both in the east and west directions depending on the tidal phases. However, the flow over SBM is subcritical with respect to mode-1 internal wave. The bidirectional propagating mode-1 ISWs evolve from a long-wave disturbance induced by “upstream influence.” But, during spring tide, with an increased tidal flow over SBM, it is observed that the westward propagating ISWs are formed by a dispersed hydraulic jump observed over the ridge. Moreover, the bidirectional mode-2 waves from SBM are generated by a lee wave mechanism. An energy budget comparison reveals that the region surrounding NBM is efficient in radiating low-mode baroclinic energy (0.98 GW), while SBM is highly efficient in converting barotropic to baroclinic energy (4.1 GW).

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George Mellor

Abstract

There have been several numerical models developed to represent the phase-averaged flow in the surf zone, which is characterized by kD less than unity, where k is wavenumber and D is the water column depth. The classic scenario is that of surface gravity waves progressing onto a shore that create an offshore undertow current. In fact, in some models, flow velocities are parameterized assuming the existence of an undertow. The present approach uses the full vertically dependent continuity and momentum equations and the vertically dependent wave radiation stress in addition to turbulence equations. The model is applied to data that feature measurements of wave properties and also cross-shore velocities. In this paper, both the data and the model application are unidirectional and the surface stress is nil, representing the simplest surf zone application. Breaking waves are described empirically. Special to the surf zone, it is found that a simple empirical adjustment of the radiation stress enables a favorable comparison with data. Otherwise, the model applies to the open ocean with no further empiricism. A new bottom friction algorithm had been derived and is introduced in this paper. In the context of the turbulence transport model, the algorithm is relatively simple.

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Elizabeth C. Fine, Matthew H. Alford, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, and John B. Mickett

Abstract

In the Beaufort Sea in September of 2015, concurrent mooring and microstructure observations were used to assess dissipation rates in the vicinity of 72°35′N, 145°1′W. Microstructure measurements from a free-falling profiler survey showed very low [O(10 10) W kg−1] turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates ε. A finescale parameterization based on both shear and strain measurements was applied to estimate the ratio of shear to strain R ω and ε at the mooring location, and a strain-based parameterization was applied to the microstructure survey (which occurred approximately 100 km away from the mooring site) for direct comparison with microstructure results. The finescale parameterization worked well, with discrepancies ranging from a factor of 1–2.5 depending on depth. The largest discrepancies occurred at depths with high shear. Mean R ω was 17, and R ω showed high variability with values ranging from 3 to 50 over 8 days. Observed ε was slightly elevated (factor of 2–3 compared with a later survey of 11 profiles taken over 3 h) from 25 to 125 m following a wind event which occurred at the beginning of the mooring deployment, reaching a maximum of ε= 6 × 10−10 W kg−1 at 30-m depth. Velocity signals associated with near-inertial waves (NIWs) were observed at depths greater than 200 m, where the Atlantic Water mass represents a reservoir of oceanic heat. However, no evidence of elevated ε or heat fluxes was observed in association with NIWs at these depths in either the microstructure survey or the finescale parameterization estimates.

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Daniel L. Rudnick, W. Brechner Owens, T. M. Shaun Johnston, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Julie Jakoboski, and Robert E. Todd

Abstract

The strong El Niño of 2014–16 was observed west of the Galápagos Islands through sustained deployment of underwater gliders. Three years of observations began in October 2013 and ended in October 2016, with observations at longitudes 93° and 95°W between latitudes 2°N and 2°S. In total, there were over 3000 glider-days of data, covering over 50 000 km with over 12 000 profiles. Coverage was superior closer to the Galápagos on 93°W, where gliders were equipped with sensors to measure velocity as well as temperature, salinity, and pressure. The repeated glider transects are analyzed to produce highly resolved mean sections and maps of observed variables as functions of time, latitude, and depth. The mean sections reveal the structure of the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC), the South Equatorial Current, and the equatorial front. The mean fields are used to calculate potential vorticity Q and Richardson number Ri. Gradients in the mean are strong enough to make the sign of Q opposite to that of planetary vorticity and to have Ri near unity, suggestive of mixing. Temporal variability is dominated by the 2014–16 El Niño, with the arrival of depressed isopycnals documented in 2014 and 2015. Increases in eastward velocity advect anomalously salty water and are uncorrelated with warm temperatures and deep isopycnals. Thus, vertical advection is important to changes in heat, and horizontal advection is relevant to changes in salt. Implications of this work include possibilities for future research, model assessment and improvement, and sustained observations across the equatorial Pacific.

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Geoffrey Gebbie

Abstract

Sea level rise over the last deglaciation is dominated by the mass of freshwater added to the oceans by the melting of the great ice sheets. While the steric effect of changing seawater density is secondary over the last 20 000 years, processes connected to deglacial warming, the redistribution of salt, and the pressure load of meltwater all influence sea level rise by more than a meter. Here we develop a diagnostic for steric effects that is valid when oceanic mass is changing. This diagnostic accounts for seawater compression due to the added overlying pressure of glacial meltwater, which is here defined to be a barosteric effect. Analysis of three-dimensional global seawater reconstructions of the last deglaciation indicates that thermosteric height change (1.0–1.5 m) is counteracted by barosteric (−1.9 m) and halosteric (from −0.4 to 0.0 m) effects. The total deglacial steric effect from −0.7 to −1.1 m has the opposite sign of analyses that assume that thermosteric expansion is dominant. Despite the vertical oceanic structure not being well constrained during the Last Glacial Maximum, net seawater contraction appears robust as it occurs in four reconstructions that were produced using different paleoceanographic datasets. Calculations that do not account for changes in ocean pressure give the misleading impression that steric effects enhanced deglacial sea level rise.

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Kun Liu and Zhongxiang Zhao

Abstract

The disintegration of the equatorward-propagating K1 internal tide in the South China Sea (SCS) by parametric subharmonic instability (PSI) at its critical latitude of 14.52°N is investigated numerically. The multiple-source generation and long-range propagation of K1 internal tides are successfully reproduced. Using equilibrium analysis, the internal wave field near the critical latitude is found to experience two quasi-steady states, between which the subharmonic waves develop constantly. The simulated subharmonic waves agree well with classic PSI theoretical prediction. The PSI-induced near-inertial waves are of half the K1 frequency and dominantly high modes, the vertical scales ranging from 50 to 180 m in the upper ocean. From an energy perspective, PSI mainly occurs in the critical latitudinal zone from 13° to 15°N. In this zone, the incident internal tide loses ~14% energy in the mature state of PSI. PSI triggers a mixing elevation of O(10−5–10−4) m2 s−1 in the upper ocean at the critical latitude, which is several times larger than the background value. The contribution of PSI to the internal tide energy loss and associated enhanced mixing may differ regionally and is closely dependent on the intensity and duration of background internal tide. The results elucidate the far-field dissipation mechanism by PSI in connecting interior mixing with remotely generated K1 internal tides in the Luzon Strait.

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