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Sean R. Haney, Alexandra J. Simpson, Jacqueline M. McSweeney, Amy F. Waterhouse, Merrick C. Haller, James A. Lerczak, John A. Barth, Luc Lenain, André Palóczy, Kate Adams, and Jennifer A. MacKinnon

Abstract

The ocean is home to many different submesoscale phenomena, including internal waves, fronts, and gravity currents. Each of these processes entail complex nonlinear dynamics, even in isolation. Here we present shipboard, moored, and remote observations of a submesoscale gravity current front created by a shoaling internal tidal bore in the coastal ocean. The internal bore is observed to flatten as it shoals, leaving behind a gravity current front that propagates significantly slower than the bore. We posit that the generation and separation of the front from the bore is related to particular stratification ahead of the bore, which allows the bore to reach the maximum possible internal wave speed. After the front is calved from the bore, it is observed to propagate as a gravity current for ≈4 hours, with associated elevated turbulent dissipation rates. A strong cross-shore gradient of along-shore velocity creates enhanced vertical vorticity (Rossby number ≈ 40) that remains locked with the front. Lateral shear instabilities develop along the front and may hasten its demise.

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Yuan-Zheng Lu, Xian-Rong Cen, Shuang-Xi Guo, Ling Qu, Peng-Qi Huang, Xiao-Dong Shang, and Sheng-Qi Zhou

Abstract

The nominal spatial distribution of diapycnal mixing in the South China Sea (SCS) is obtained with Thorpe-scale analysis from 2004 to 2020. The inferred dissipation rate ε and diapycnal diffusivity Kz between 100 and 1500 m indicated that the strongest mixing occurred in the Luzon Strait and Dongsha Plateau regions, with ε ~ 3.0 × 10-8 W/kg (εmax = 5.3 × 10-6 W/kg) and Kz ~ 3.5 × 10-4 m2/s (Kz max = 4.2 = 10-2 m2/s). The weakest mixing occurred in the thermocline of the central basin, with ε ~ 6.2 × 10-10 W/kg and Kz ~ 3.7 × 10-6 m2/s. The ε and Kz in the continental slope indicated that the mixing in the northern part [O(10-8) W/kg, O(10-4) m2/s] was comparatively stronger than that in the Xisha and Nansha regions [O(10-9) W/kg, O(10-5) m2/s]. The Kz in the continental slope region (200–2000 m) decayed at a closed rate from the ocean bottom to the main thermocline when the measured depth D was normalized by the ocean depth H as D/H, whether in the shallow or deep oceans. The diapycnal diffusivity was parameterized as Kz = 3.3 × 10−4 (1 + 1D/H0.22)−2 − 6.0 × 10−6 m2/s. The vertically integrated energy dissipation was nominally as 15.8 mW/m2 for all data and 25.6 mW/m2 for data at stations H < 2000 m. This was about one order higher than that in the open oceans (3.0–3.3 mW/m2), which confirmed the active mixing state in the SCS.

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Yunwei Yan, Lei Zhang, Xiangzhou Song, Guihua Wang, and Changlin Chen

Abstract

Diurnal variation in surface latent heat flux (LHF) and the effects of diurnal variations in LHF-related variables on the climatological LHF are examined using observations from the Global Tropical Moored Buoy Array. The estimated amplitude of the climatological diurnal LHF over the Indo-Pacific warm pool and the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic cold tongues is remarkable, with maximum values exceeding 20.0 W m−2. Diurnal variability of sea surface skin temperature (SSTskin) is the primary contributor to the diurnal LHF amplitude. Because the diurnal SSTskin amplitude has an inverse relationship with surface wind speed over the tropical oceans, an inverse spatial pattern between the diurnal LHF amplitude and surface wind speed results. Resolving diurnal variations in the SSTskin and wind improves the estimate of the climatological LHF by properly capturing the daytime SSTskin and daily mean wind speed, respectively. The diurnal SSTskin-associated contribution is large over the warm pool and equatorial cold tongues where low wind speeds tend to cause strong diurnal SSTskin warming, while the magnitude associated with the diurnal winds is large over the highly dynamic environment of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. The total diurnal contribution is about 9.0 W m−2 on average over the buoy sites. There appears to be a power function (linear) relationship between the diurnal SSTskin-associated (wind-associated) contribution and surface mean wind speed (wind speed enhancement from diurnal variability). The total contribution from diurnal variability can be estimated accurately from high-frequency surface wind measurements using these relationships.

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Zhumin Lu, Guihua Wang, and Xiaodong Shang

Abstract

As a key to modulate the negative feedback to tropical cyclone (TC) intensity, the TC-induced inner-core sea surface cooling (SSCIC) is poorly understood. Using a linear two-layer theory and OGCM experiments, this study illustrates that the pattern of the inner-core mixing can be well interpreted by the wind-driven currents in the mixed layer (ML). This interpretation is based on: 1) the mixing is triggered by the ML bulk shear instability; 2) the lag of upwelling makes the inner-core bulk shear equivalent to the inner-core wind-driven currents. Overall, the patterns of the inner-core bulk shear and mixing resemble the crescent body of a sickle. As an accumulative result of mixing, the SSCIC is clearly weaker than the maximum cold wake because of the weaker mixing ahead of the inner core and nearly zero mixing in a part of the inner core. The SSCIC induced by a rectilinear-track TC is mainly dominated by the inner-core mixing. Only for a slow-moving case, upwelling and horizontal advection can make minor contributions to the SSCIC by incorporating them with mixing. The SSCIC strength is inversely proportional to the moving speed, suggesting the mixing time rather than the mixing strength dominates the SSCIC. Despite inability in treating the mixing strength, this study elucidates the fundamental dynamical mechanisms of SSCIC, especially emphasizes the different roles of mixing, upwelling and horizontal advection for fast- and slow-moving TCs, and thus provides a good start point to understand SSCIC.

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Delphine Hypolite, Leonel Romero, James C. McWilliams, and Daniel P. Dauhajre

Abstract

A set of realistic coastal simulations in California allows for the exploration of surface gravity wave effects on currents (WEC) in an active submesoscale current regime. We use a new method that takes into account the full surface gravity wave spectrum and produces larger Stokes drift than the monochromatic peak-wave approximation. We investigate two high wave events lasting several days — one from a remotely generated swell and another associated with local wind-generated waves — and perform a systematic comparison between solutions with and without WEC at two submesoscale-resolving horizontal grid resolutions (dx = 270 m and 100 m). WEC results in the enhancement of open-ocean surface density and velocity gradients when the averaged significant wave height H S is relatively large (> 4.2m). For smaller waves, WEC is a minor effect overall. For the remote swell (strong waves and weak winds), WEC maintains submesoscale structures and accentuates the cyclonic vorticity and horizontal convergence skewness of submesoscale fronts and filaments. The vertical enstrophy ζ 2 budget in cyclonic regions (ζ/f > 2) reveals enhanced vertical shear and enstrophy production via vortex tilting and stretching. Wind-forced waves also enhance surface gradients, up to the point where they generate a small-submesoscale roll-cell pattern with high vorticity and divergence that extends vertically through the entire mixed layer. The emergence of these roll-cells results in a buoyancy gradient sink near the surface that causes a modest reduction in the typically large submesoscale density gradients.

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Soeren Thomsen, Xavier Capet, and Vincent Echevin

Abstract

Coastal upwelling rates are classically determined by the intensity of the upper-ocean offshore Ekman transport. But (sub-)mesoscale turbulence modulates offshore transport, hence the net upwelling rate. Eddy effects generally oppose the Ekman circulation, resulting in so-called “eddy cancellation”, a process well studied in the Southern Ocean. Here we investigate how air-sea heat/buoyancy fluxes modulate eddy cancellation in an idealized upwelling model. We run CROCO simulations with constant winds but varying heat fluxes with and without submesoscale-rich turbulence. Eddy cancellation is consistently evaluated with three different methods that all account for the quasi-isopycnal nature of ocean circulation away from the surface. For zero heat fluxes the release of available potential energy by baroclinic instabilities is strongest and leads, near the coast, to nearly full cancellation of the Ekman cross-shore circulation by eddy effects, i.e., zero net mean upwelling flow. With increasing heat fluxes eddy cancellation is reduced and the transverse flow progressively approaches the classical Ekman circulation. Sensitivity of the eddy circulation to synoptic changes in air-sea heat fluxes is felt down to 125 m depth despite short experiments of tens of days. Mesoscale dynamics dominate the cancellation effect in our simulations which might also hold for the real ocean as the relevant processes act below the surface boundary layer. Although the idealized setting overemphasis the role of eddies and thus studies with more realistic settings should follow, our findings have important implications for the overall understanding of upwelling system dynamics.

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Antoine Villefer, Michel Benoit, Damien Violeau, Christopher Luneau, and Hubert Branger

Abstract

A series of experiments were conducted in a wind-wave tank facility in Marseilles (France) to study the effects of preexisting swell conditions (represented by long mechanically-generated waves) on wind-wave growth with fetch. Both monochromatic and irregular (JONSWAP-type) long wave conditions with different values of wave steepness have been generated in the presence of a constant wind forcing, for several wind velocities. A spectral analysis of temporal wave signals combined with airflow measurements allowed to study the evolution of both wave systems with the aim of identifying the interaction mechanisms transportable to prototype scale. In particular, a specific method is used to separate the two wave systems in the measured bimodal spectra. In fetch-limited conditions, pure wind-wave growth is in accordance with anterior experiments, but differs from the prototype scale in terms of energy and frequency variations with fetch. Monochromatic long waves are shown to reduce the energy of the wind-waves significantly, as it was observed in anterior laboratory experiments. The addition of JONSWAP-type long waves instead results in a downshift of the wind-wave peak frequency but no significant energy reduction. Overall, it is observed that the presence of long waves affects the wind-wave energy and frequency variations with fetch. Finally, in the presence of JONSWAP-type long waves, variations of wind-wave energy and peak frequency with fetch appear in close agreement with the wind-wave growth observed at prototype scale both in terms of variations and nondimensional magnitude.

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Peiran Yang, Zhao Jing, Bingrong Sun, Lixin Wu, Bo Qiu, Ping Chang, Sanjiv Ramachandran, and Chunxin Yuan

Abstract

Encountering of energetic ocean eddies and atmosphere storms makes the winter Kuroshio extension a hotspot for air-sea interactions. This second part investigates the regulation of vertical eddy heat transport QT in the winter Kuroshio extension mixed layer by different types of air-sea interactions, including the atmosphere synoptic forcing, eddy thermal feedback resulting from eddy-induced surface heat flux anomalies, and eddy current feedback from eddy current’s imprint on wind stress.

Atmosphere synoptic forcing modulates intra-seasonal variation of QT by boosting its component contributed by the turbulent thermal wind balance QTTTW during strong cooling events associated with intense winds. In addition, the magnitude of QT is influenced by the direction of synoptic wind stress primarily via QTTTW, with the latter exhibiting enhancement both in the downfront- and upfront-wind forcing. Enhanced QTTTW by the downfront-wind forcing is attributed to increased turbulent vertical viscosity and front intensity caused by the destabilizing wind-driven Ekman buoyancy flux, whereas interaction of uniform wind stress with smaller turbulent vertical viscosity at the front center than periphery (a so-called internal Ekman pumping) accounts for the increased QTTTW in the upfront-wind forcing. The eddy thermal feedback reduces QT significantly through weakening the fronts. In contrast, the eddy current feedback exerts negligible influences on QT, although it weakens eddy kinetic energy (EKE) evidently. This is due to the much reduced effect of eddy current feedback in damping the fronts compared to EKE and also due to the compensation from Ekman pumping induced by the eddy current feedback.

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Qinbiao Ni, Xiaoming Zhai, Xuemin Jiang, and Dake Chen

Abstract

Mesoscale eddies are ubiquitous features of the global ocean circulation and play a key role in transporting ocean properties and modulating air–sea exchanges. Anticyclonic and cyclonic eddies are traditionally thought to be associated with anomalous warm and cold surface waters, respectively. Using satellite altimeter and microwave data, here we show that surface cold-core anticyclonic eddies (CAEs) and warm-core cyclonic eddies (WCEs) are surprisingly abundant in the global ocean—about 20% of the eddies inferred from altimeter data are CAEs and WCEs. Composite analysis using Argo float profiles reveals that the cold cores of CAEs and warm cores of WCEs are generally confined in the upper 50 m. Interestingly, CAEs and WCEs alter air–sea momentum and heat fluxes and modulate mixed layer depth and surface chlorophyll concentration in a way markedly different from the traditional warm-core anticyclonic and cold-core cyclonic eddies. Given their abundance, CAEs and WCEs need to be properly accounted for when assessing and parameterizing the role of ocean eddies in Earth’s climate system.

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Yoeri M. Dijkstra and Henk M. Schuttelaars

Abstract

The classification diagram developed by Hansen and Rattray is one of the classic papers on classification of estuarine salinity dynamics. However, we found several inconsistencies in both their stratification–circulation and estuarine classification diagrams. These findings considerably change the interpretation of their work. Furthermore, while their classification includes salt wedge estuaries, the model used to derive this is only applicable to well-mixed and partially mixed estuaries. Here, we identify and solve these inconsistencies, and we propose new adjusted and extended stratification–circulation and classification diagrams. To this end, we summarize the model of Hansen and Rattray and extend their work to find analytical model solutions and an adjusted stratification–circulation diagram. Using this new diagram, it is shown that Hansen and Rattray incorrectly discussed the behavior of dispersion-dominated estuaries and that several parts of the diagram correspond to physically unrealistic model solutions. This is then used to demonstrate that several estuarine classes identified by Hansen and Rattray correspond to physically unrealistic model solutions and can therefore not be interpreted. A new and extended classification is proposed by using a recently developed model that extends the work of Hansen and Rattray to salt wedge estuaries. This results in an extended estuarine classification including examples of the location of 12 estuaries in this new diagram.

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