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K. H. Brink

Abstract

A linear numerical model of an island or a tall seamount is used to explore superinertial leaky resonances forced by ambient vertically and horizontally uniform current fluctuations. The model assumes a circularly symmetric topography (including a shallow reef) and allows realistic stratification and bottom friction. As long as there is substantial stratification, a number of leaky resonances are found, and when the island’s flanks are narrow relative to the internal Rossby radius, some of the near-resonant modes resemble leaky internal Kelvin waves. Other “resonances” resemble higher radial mode long gravity waves as explored by Chambers. The near-resonances amplify the cross-reef velocities that help fuel biological activity. Results for cases with the central island replaced by a lagoon do not differ greatly from the island case which has land at the center. As an aside, insight is provided on the question of offshore boundary conditions for superinertial nearly trapped waves along a straight coast.

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Zhi Li, Matthew H. England, Sjoerd Groeskamp, Ivana Cerovečki, and Yiyong Luo

Abstract

Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) forms in deep mixed layers just north of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current in winter, playing a fundamental role in the ocean uptake of heat and carbon. Using a gridded Argo product and the ERA-Interim reanalysis for years 2004–18, the seasonal evolution of the SAMW volume is analyzed using both a kinematic estimate of the subduction rate and a thermodynamic estimate of the air–sea formation rate. The seasonal SAMW volume changes are separately estimated within the monthly mixed layer and in the interior below it. We find that the variability of SAMW volume is dominated by changes in SAMW volume in the mixed layer. The seasonal variability of SAMW volume in the mixed layer is governed by formation due to air–sea buoyancy fluxes (45%, lasting from July to August), entrainment (35%), and northward Ekman transport across the Subantarctic Front (10%). The interior SAMW formation is entirely controlled by exchanges between the mixed layer and the interior (i.e., instantaneous subduction), which occurs mainly during August–October. The annual mean subduction estimate from a Lagrangian approach shows strong regional variability with hotspots of large SAMW subduction. The SAMW subduction hotspots are consistent with the distribution and export pathways of SAMW over the central and eastern parts of the south Indian and Pacific Oceans. Hotspots in the south Indian Ocean produce strong subduction of 8 and 9 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) for the light and southeast Indian SAMW, respectively, while SAMW subduction of 6 and 4 Sv occurs for the central and southeast Pacific SAMW, respectively.

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Hua Zheng, Xiao-Hua Zhu, Chuanzheng Zhang, Ruixiang Zhao, Ze-Nan Zhu, and Zhao-Jun Liu

Abstract

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) are oscillations generated on sloping topography when water columns travel across isobaths under potential vorticity conservation. From our large-scale observations from 2016 to 2019, near-65-day TRWs were first observed in the deep basin of the South China Sea (SCS). The TRWs propagated westward with a larger wavelength (235 km) and phase speed (3.6 km day−1) in the north of the array and a smaller wavelength (80 km) and phase speed (1.2 km day−1) toward the southwest of the array. The ray-tracing model was used to identify the energy source and propagation features of the TRWs. The paths of the near-65-day TRWs mainly followed the isobaths with a slightly downslope propagation. The possible energy source of the TRWs was the variance of surface eddies southwest of Taiwan. The near-65-day energy propagated from the southwest of Taiwan to the northeast and southwest of the array over ~100–120 and ~105 days, respectively, corresponding to a group velocity of 4.2–5.0 and 10.5 km day−1, respectively. This suggests that TRWs play an important role in deep-ocean dynamics and deep current variation, and upper-ocean variance may adjust the intraseasonal variability in the deep SCS.

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Richard E. Thomson and Isaac V. Fine

Abstract

We use bottom pressure records from 59 sites of the global tsunami warning system to examine the nonisostatic response of the World Ocean to surface air pressure forcing within the 4–6-day band. It is within this narrow “5-day” band that sea level fluctuations strongly depart from the isostatic inverted barometer response. Numerical simulations of the observed bottom pressures were conducted using a two-dimensional Princeton Ocean Model forced at the upper boundary by two versions of the air pressure loading: (i) an analytical version having the form of the westward propagating, 5-day Rossby–Haurwitz air pressure mode; and (ii) an observational version based on a 16-yr record of global-scale atmospheric reanalysis data with a spatial resolution of 2.5°. Simulations from the two models—consisting of barotropic standing waves of millibar amplitudes and near uniform phases in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans—are in close agreement and closely reproduce the observed bottom pressures. The marked similarity of the outputs from the two models and the ability of both models to accurately reproduce the seafloor pressure records indicate a pronounced dynamic response of the World Ocean to nonstationary air pressure fields resembling the theoretical Rossby–Haurwitz air pressure mode.

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Mingting Li, Huijie Xue, Jun Wei, Linlin Liang, Arnold L. Gordon, and Song Yang

Abstract

The role of the Mindoro Strait–Sibutu Passage pathway in influencing the Luzon Strait inflow to the South China Sea (SCS) and the SCS multilayer circulation is investigated with a high-resolution (0.1° × 0.1°) regional ocean model. Significant changes are evident in the SCS upper-layer circulation (250–900 m) by closing the Mindoro–Sibutu pathway in sensitivity experiments, as Luzon Strait transport is reduced by 75%, from −4.4 to −1.2 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). Because of the vertical coupling between the upper and middle layers, closing the Mindoro–Sibutu pathway also weakens clockwise circulation in the middle layer (900–2150 m), but there is no significant change in the deep layer (below 2150 m). The Mindoro–Sibutu pathway is an important branch of the SCS throughflow into the Indonesian Seas. It is also the gateway for oceanic waves propagating clockwise around the Philippines Archipelago from the western Pacific Ocean into the eastern SCS, projecting El Niño–Southern Oscillation sea level signals to the SCS, impacting its interannual variations and multilayer circulation. The results provide insights into the dynamics of how upstream and downstream passage throughflows are coupled to affect the general circulation in marginal seas.

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Zhongxiang Zhao

Abstract

The seasonal variability of mode-1 M2 internal tides is investigated using 25 years of multisatellite altimeter data from 1992 to 2017. Four seasonal internal tide models are constructed using seasonally subsetted altimeter data and World Ocean Atlas seasonal climatologies. This work is made possible by a newly developed mapping procedure that can significantly suppress model errors. Seasonal-mean and seasonally variable internal tide models are derived from the four seasonal models. All of the models are intercompared and evaluated using independent CryoSat-2 data. The seasonal-mean model is overall the best model because averaging the four seasonal models further reduces model errors. The seasonally variable models are better in the tropical zone, where large seasonal signals may overcome model errors. Each seasonal model works best in its own season and worst in its opposite season. These internal tide models reveal that mode-1 M2 internal tides are subject to significant seasonal variability and that their seasonal variations are a function of location. Large seasonal variations dominantly occur in the tropical zone, where the World Ocean Atlas climatology shows strong seasonal variations in ocean stratification. Seasonal phase variations are obtained from the directionally decomposed internal tide components. They are dominantly ±60° at the equator and up to ±120° in the central Arabian Sea. Incoherence caused by seasonal phase variations is usually less than 10% but may be up to 40%–50% in the tropical zone.

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Arnaud Le Boyer and Matthew H. Alford

Abstract

Energy for ocean turbulence is thought to be transferred from its presumed sources (viz., the mesoscale eddy field, near-inertial internal waves, and internal tides) to the internal wave continuum, and through the continuum via resonant triad interactions to breaking scales. To test these ideas, the level and variability of the oceanic internal gravity wave continuum spectrum are examined by computing time-dependent rotary spectra from a global database of 2260 current meter records deployed on 1362 separate moorings. Time series of energy in the continuum and the three “source bands” (near-inertial, tidal, and mesoscale) are computed, and their variability and covariability examined. Seasonal modulation of the continuum by factors of up to 5 is seen in the upper ocean, implicating wind-driven near-inertial waves as an important source. The time series of the continuum is found to correlate more strongly with the near-inertial peak than with the semidiurnal or mesoscale. The use of moored internal-wave kinetic energy frequency spectra as an alternate input to the traditional shear or strain wavenumber spectra in the Gregg–Henyey–Polzin finescale parameterization is explored and compared to traditional strain-based estimates.

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Dhruv Balwada, Qiyu Xiao, Shafer Smith, Ryan Abernathey, and Alison R. Gray

Abstract

It has been hypothesized that submesoscale flows play an important role in the vertical transport of climatically important tracers, due to their strong associated vertical velocities. However, the multiscale, nonlinear, and Lagrangian nature of transport makes it challenging to attribute proportions of the tracer fluxes to certain processes, scales, regions, or features. Here we show that criteria based on the surface vorticity and strain joint probability distribution function (JPDF) effectively decompose the surface velocity field into distinguishable flow regions, and different flow features, like fronts or eddies, are contained in different flow regions. The JPDF has a distinct shape and approximately parses the flow into different scales, as stronger velocity gradients are usually associated with smaller scales. Conditioning the vertical tracer transport on the vorticity–strain JPDF can therefore help to attribute the transport to different types of flows and scales. Applied to a set of idealized Antarctic Circumpolar Current simulations that vary only in horizontal resolution, this diagnostic approach demonstrates that small-scale strain-dominated regions that are generally associated with submesoscale fronts, despite their minuscule spatial footprint, play an outsized role in exchanging tracers across the mixed layer base and are an important contributor to the large-scale tracer budgets. Resolving these flows not only adds extra flux at the small scales, but also enhances the flux due to the larger-scale flows.

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Yu Liang, Jeffrey R. Carpenter, and Mary-Louise Timmermans

Abstract

Diffusive convection can occur when two constituents of a stratified fluid have opposing effects on its stratification and different molecular diffusivities. This form of convection arises for the particular temperature and salinity stratification in the Arctic Ocean and is relevant to heat fluxes. Previous studies have suggested that planetary rotation may influence diffusive-convective heat fluxes, although the precise physical mechanisms and regime of rotational influence are not well understood. A linear stability analysis of a temperature and salinity interface bounded by two mixed layers is performed here to understand the stability properties of a diffusive-convective system, and in particular the transition from non-rotating to rotationally-controlled heat transfer. Rotation is shown to stabilize diffusive convection by increasing the critical Rayleigh number to initiate instability. In the rotationally-controlled regime, a −4/3 power law is found between the critical Rayleigh number and the Ekman number, similar to the scaling for rotating thermal convection. The transition from non-rotating to rotationally-controlled convection, and associated drop in heat fluxes, is predicted to occur when the thermal interfacial thickness exceeds about 4 times the Ekman layer thickness. A vorticity budget analysis indicates how baroclinic vorticity production is counteracted by the tilting of planetary vorticity by vertical shear, which accounts for the stabilization effect of rotation. Finally, direct numerical simulations yield generally good agreement with the linear stability analysis. This study, therefore, provides a theoretical framework for classifying regimes of rotationally-controlled diffusive-convective heat fluxes, such as may arise in some regions of the Arctic Ocean.

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Sijia Zou, Amy S. Bower, Heather Furey, Robert S. Pickart, Loïc Houpert, and N. Penny Holliday

Abstract

Recent mooring measurements from the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program have revealed abundant cyclonic eddies at both sides of Cape Farewell, the southern tip of Greenland. In this study, we present further observational evidence, from both Eulerian and Lagrangian perspectives, of deep cyclonic eddies with intense rotation (𝜁/f > 1) around southern Greenland and into the Labrador Sea. Most of the observed cyclones exhibit strongest rotation below the surface (700-1000 dbar), where maximum azimuthal velocities are ~30 cm/s at radii of ~10 km, with rotational periods of 2-3 days. The cyclonic rotation can extend to the deep overflow water layer (below 1800 dbar), albeit with weaker azimuthal velocities (~10 cm/s) and longer rotational periods of about one week. Within the mid-depth rotation cores, the cyclones are in near solid-body rotation and have the potential to trap and transport water. The first high-resolution hydrographic transect across such a cyclone indicates that it is characterized by a local (both vertically and horizontally) potential vorticity maximum in its core and cold, fresh anomalies in the overflow water layer, suggesting its source as the Denmark Strait outflow. Additionally, the propagation and evolution of the cyclonic eddies are illustrated with deep Lagrangian floats, including their detachments from the boundary currents to the basin interior. Taken together, the combined Eulerian and Lagrangian observations have provided new insights on the boundary current variability and boundary-interior exchange over a geographically large scale near southern Greenland, calling for further investigations on the (sub)mesoscale dynamics in the region.

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