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Xiao Ma
,
Hailong Liu
, and
Xidong Wang

Abstract

This study reveals the role of the tropical Atlantic variability in modulating the barrier layer thickness (BLT) in their peak seasons. Based on reanalysis data during 1980–2016, statistical and dynamical analyses are performed to investigate the mechanism of BLT variability associated with the tropical Atlantic modes. The regions with significant correlation between BLT and tropical Atlantic modes are located in the northwest and southeast coasts of the tropical Atlantic, which are consistent with BLT maximum variability regions. In boreal spring, BLT decreases in the northwest because less latent heat release affected by weak trade wind related to the Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM) shoals the iso-thermal layer depth (ITLD). In the south equatorial Atlantic, deepened mixed layer depth (MLD) is controlled by the decreasing fresh water input brought by a northward shift of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and further lead to a thinner BL. However, a shoaling MLD appears in the north equatorial Atlantic, which results from excessive freshwater input, causing a thick BL there. In boreal summer, positive runoff anomaly caused by the Atlantic Equatorial Mode (AEM) leads to upper warming of the tropical northwest Atlantic and a shallowing ITLD, favoring a thinner BL there. However, a southward shift of ITCZ brings more freshwater into the south equatorial Atlantic, inducing a shallowing MLD as well as a thicker BL. AEM-driven horizontal heat advection of the south equatorial current contributes to a thick ITLD at central southern tropical Atlantic and thus increases BLT.

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Hua Zheng
,
Xiao-Hua Zhu
,
Juntian Chen
,
Min Wang
,
Ruixiang Zhao
,
Chuanzheng Zhang
,
Ze-Nan Zhu
,
Qiang Ren
,
Yansong Liu
,
Feng Nan
, and
Fei Yu

Abstract

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) play an important role in deep-ocean dynamics and abyssal intraseasonal variations. Observational records from 15 current- and pressure-recording inverted echo sounders (CPIESs) and two moorings deployed in the northern Manila Trench (MT), South China Sea (SCS), for over 400 days were utilized to analyze the widely existing near-21-day bottom-trapped TRWs in the trench. The TRWs were generally generated in winter and summer, dominated by perturbations in the upper ocean. Kuroshio intrusion and its related variabilities contributed to the perturbations in winter, whereas the perturbations generated north of Luzon Island dominated in summer. Eddies north of Luzon propagated northwestward in the summer of 2018; however, these eddies caused the Kuroshio meanderings in the Luzon Strait (LS) in the summer of 2019. The variations in the Kuroshio path and the Kuroshio-related eddies induced TRWs in the deep ocean in regions with steep topography. However, the spatiotemporal distributions of TRWs were complex owing to the propagation of the waves. Some cases of TRWs showed no relation to the local upper-layer perturbations but propagated from adjacent regions. Some of these TRWs were induced by perturbations in the upper ocean in adjacent regions, and propagated anticlockwise in the MT with shallow water to their right, while others may be related to the intraseasonal variations in deep-water overflow in the LS and propagated northward. This study suggests that the Kuroshio and Kuroshio-related eddies significantly contribute to the dynamic processes associated with intraseasonal variations in the deep SCS through the generation of TRWs.

Significance Statement

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) are fluctuations generated when water columns travel across sloping topography under potential vorticity conservation. Based on observations of 15 current- and pressure-recording inverted echo sounders (CPIESs) and two moorings in the northern Manila Trench (MT) in the South China Sea (SCS), TRWs with periods of approximately 21 days were observed and analyzed. This study describes the generation, propagation, and spatiotemporal distribution of TRWs west of the LS and confirms that regional Kuroshio meanderings and upper eddies play important roles in the dynamic processes associated with intraseasonal variations in the deep SCS; the study may thus contribute to knowledge on the dynamic response of the abyssal current to mesoscale perturbations in the upper ocean.

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

Abstract

Using observationally based hydrographic and eddy diffusivity datasets, a volume budget analysis is performed to identify the main mechanisms governing the spatial and seasonal variability of Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) within the density range γn = (27.25–27.7) kg m−3 in the Southern Ocean. The subduction rates and water mass transformation rates by mesoscale and small-scale turbulent mixing are estimated. First, Ekman pumping upwells the dense variety of AAIW into the mixed layer south of the Polar Front, which can be advected northward by Ekman transport into the subduction regions of lighter-variety AAIW and Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW). The subduction of light AAIW occurs mainly by lateral advection in the southeast Pacific and Drake Passage as well as eddy-induced flow between the Subantarctic and Polar Fronts. The circumpolar-integrated total subduction yields from −5 to 19 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) of AAIW volume loss. Second, the diapycnal transport from subducted SAMW into the AAIW layer is predominantly by mesoscale mixing (2–13 Sv) near the Subantarctic Front and vertical mixing in the South Pacific, while AAIW is further replenished by transformation from Upper Circumpolar Deep Water by vertical mixing (1–10 Sv). Last, 3–14 Sv of AAIW are exported out of the Southern Ocean. Our results suggest that the distribution of AAIW is set by its formation due to subduction and mixing, and its circulation eastward along the ACC and northward into the subtropical gyres. The volume budget analysis reveals strong seasonal variability in the rate of subduction, vertical mixing, and volume transport driving volume change within the AAIW layer. The nonzero volume budget residual suggests that more observations are needed to better constrain the estimate of geostrophic flow and mesoscale and small-scale mixing diffusivities.

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B. Dzwonkowski
,
S. Fournier
,
G. Lockridge
,
J. Coogan
,
Z. Liu
, and
K. Park

Abstract

Prediction of rapid intensification in tropical cyclones prior to landfall is a major societal issue. While air–sea interactions are clearly linked to storm intensity, the connections between the underlying thermal conditions over continental shelves and rapid intensification are limited. Here, an exceptional set of in situ and satellite data are used to identify spatial heterogeneity in sea surface temperatures across the inner core of Hurricane Sally (2020), a storm that rapidly intensified over the shelf. A leftward shift in the region of maximum cooling was observed as the hurricane transited from the open gulf to the shelf. This shift was generated, in part, by the surface heat flux in conjunction with the along- and across-shelf transport of heat from storm-generated coastal circulation. The spatial differences in the sea surface temperatures were large enough to potentially influence rapid intensification processes suggesting that coastal thermal features need to be accounted for to improve storm forecasting as well as to better understand how climate change will modify interactions between tropical cyclones and the coastal ocean.

Significance Statement

The connections between the underlying thermal energy in the ocean that powers tropical cyclones and rapid intensification of storms over continental shelves are limited. An exceptional set of data collected in the field as well as from space with satellites was used to identify spatial variations in sea surface temperatures across the inner core of Hurricane Sally (2020), a storm that rapidly intensified over the shelf. The spatial differences were due to the heat loss from the surface of the ocean as well as heat transport by shelf currents. The spatial differences were large enough to potentially influence how quickly storms can intensify, suggesting that coastal thermal features need to be accounted for to improve storm forecasting.

Open access
Yifan Xia
and
Yan Du

Abstract

In this study, the upper-ocean absolute geostrophic currents in the southern Indian Ocean are constructed using Argo temperature and salinity data from the middepth (1000 m) zonal velocity derived from the Argo float trajectory. The results reveal alternating quasi-zonal striation-like structures of middepth zonal velocity in the equatorial and southern tropical Indian Ocean. Specifically, the eastward time-mean flows are located at the equator and 2°, 5°, 8°, 13°, 16°, 18°–19°, and 21°–22°S, with a meridional scale of ∼300 km. The generation mechanisms of the striation-like zonal velocity structure differ between the near-equatorial and off-equatorial regions. The triad of baroclinic Rossby wave instability plays a significant role in near-equatorial striations. In the south, the high potential vorticity (PV) of Antarctic intermediate water and low PV of southern Indian Ocean Subantarctic Mode Water lead to strong baroclinic instability, which increases the eddy kinetic energy in the middepth layer, thus contributing to a turbulent PV gradient. The convergence/divergence of the eddy PV flux generates the quasi-zonal striations. The meridional scale of the striations is controlled by the most unstable wavelength of baroclinic instability, which explains the observations.

Significance Statement

The middepth zonal velocity resembles a system of eastward/westward jets with a considerably smaller width than the larger-scale ocean surface circulation. Such a phenomenon always occurs in a turbulent ocean that presents eddy or eddy–mean flow interactions. This study used float observations to reveal a robust middepth zonal velocity in the southern tropical Indian Ocean, where the width of the eastward time-mean flows is approximately 300 km. Smaller eddies drive the zonal currents with a smaller width, and the energy of the eddies is released from the unstable vertical structure at middepths. This study provides new insights into the generation mechanism of small-width zonal current structures in the deep ocean.

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Han Zhang

Abstract

The ocean temperature response to tropical cyclones (TCs) is important for TC development, local air-sea interactions and the global air-sea heat budget and transport. The modulation of the upper ocean vertical temperature structure after a fast-moving TC was studied at the observation stations in the northern South China Sea, including TC Kalmaegi (2014), Rammasun (2014), Sarika (2016) and Haima (2016). The upper ocean temperature and heat response to the TCs mainly depended on the combined effect of mixing and vertical advection. Mixing cooled the sea surface and warmed the subsurface, while upwelling (downwelling) reduced (increased) the subsurface warm anomaly and cooled (warmed) the deeper ocean. An ideal parameterization that depends on only the nondimensional mixing depth (HE ) and upwelling depth (HU ) were able to roughly reproduce sea surface temperature (SST) and upper ocean heat change. After TCs, the subsurface heat anomalies moved into the deeper ocean. The air-sea surface heat flux contributed little to the upper ocean temperature anomaly during the TC forcing stage and did not recover the surface ocean back to pre-TC conditions more than one and a half months after the TC. This work shows how upper ocean temperature and heat content varies by a TC, indicating that TC-induced mixing modulates the warm surface water into the subsurface, and TC-induced advection further modulates the warm water into the deeper ocean and influences the ocean heat budget.

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Jianing Li
,
Qingxuan Yang
,
Hui Sun
,
Shuwen Zhang
,
Lingling Xie
,
Qingye Wang
,
Wei Zhao
, and
Jiwei Tian

Abstract

This study focuses on the statistical features of dissipation flux coefficient Г in the upper South China Sea (SCS). Based on the microscale measurements collected at 158 stations in the upper SCS and derived dissipation rates of TKE and temperature variance ε and χT, via a modified method, we estimate Г and analyze its spatiotemporal variation in an energetic region and a quiescent region. We show that Г is highly variable, which scatters over three orders of magnitude from 10−2 to 101 in both regions. Г in the energetic region is slightly greater than that in the quiescent region; their median values are 0.23 and 0.17, respectively. Vertically, Г presents a clear increasing tendency with depth in both regions, though increasing rate is greater in the energetic region than in the quiescent region. In the upper SCS, Г positively depends on the buoyancy Reynolds number Re b and negatively depends on the ratio of the Ozmidov scale to the Thorpe scale, ROT , and is scaled as Г α Re b 1/2. ROT −4/3, which holds for both regions. The vertical decreasing of ROT is observed, which yields parameterization of ROT =10−0.002z; this parameterization improves the performance of the Thorpe-scale method by reducing at least 50% of the bias between the observed and parameterized ε. These results shed new light on the spatiotemporal variability and modulating mechanism of Г in the upper ocean.

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Nicholas K.-R. Kevlahan
and
Francis J. Poulin

Abstract

The dynamically adaptive WAVETRISK-OCEAN global model is used to solve one- and two-layer shallow water ocean models of wind-driven western boundary current (WBC) turbulence. When the submesoscale is resolved, both the one-layer simulation and the barotropic mode of the two-layer simulations have an energy spectrum with a power law of −3, while the baroclinic mode has a power law of −5/3 to −2 for a Munk boundary layer. This is consistent with the theoretical prediction for the power laws of the barotropic and baroclinic (buoyancy variance) cascades in surface quasigeostrophic turbulence. The baroclinic mode has about 20% of the energy of the barotropic mode in this case. When a Munk–Stommel boundary layer dominates, both the baroclinic and barotropic modes have a power law of −3. Local energy spectrum analysis reveals that the midlatitude and equatorial jets have different energy spectra and contribute differently to the global energy spectrum. We have therefore shown that adding a single baroclinic mode qualitatively changes WBC turbulence, introducing an energy spectrum component typical of what occurs in stratified three-dimensional ocean flows. This suggests that the first baroclinic mode may be primarily responsible for the submesoscale turbulence energy spectrum of the oceans. Adding more vertical layers, and therefore more baroclinic modes, could strengthen the first baroclinic mode, producing a dual cascade spectrum (−5/3, −3) or (−3, −5/3) similar to that predicted by quasigeostrophic and surface quasigeostrophic models, respectively.

Significance Statement

This research investigates how wind energy is transferred from the largest ocean scales (thousands of kilometers) to the small turbulence scales (a few kilometers or less). We do this by using an idealized model that includes the simplest representation of density stratification. Our main finding is that this simple model captures an essential feature of the energy transfer process. Future work will compare our results to those obtained using ocean models with more realistic stratifications.

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Yuan-Zheng Lu
,
Shuang-Xi Guo
,
Sheng-Qi Zhou
,
Xue-Long Song
, and
Peng-Qi Huang

Abstract

Thirty-four individual thermohaline sheets are identified at depths of 170–400 m in the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean by using the hydrographical data measured with the Ice-Tethered Profilers (ITPs) between August 2005 and October 2009. Each sheet is well determined because the salinity within itself remains very stable and the associated salinity anomaly is markedly smaller than the salinity jump between neighboring sheets. These thermohaline sheets are nested between the Lower Halocline Water (LHW) and Atlantic Water (AW) with lateral coherence of hundreds of kilometers and thickness varying from several to dozens of meters. The physical properties, including temperature, heat flux, and vertical turbulent diffusivity, in the sheet are found to be averagely associated with the AW propagation. Spatially, the thermohaline sheet is in a bowl-shaped distribution, which is deepest in the basin center and gradually becomes shallower toward the periphery. The interaction between the LHW and AW could be demonstrated through the property variances in the sheets. The temperature variances in the upper and lower sheets are correlated with the LHW and AW, respectively, transited at the 15th sheet, whereas the depth variance in the sheet is strongly correlated with the LHW. It is proposed that the sheet spatial distribution is mainly dominated by the Ekman convergence with the Beaufort Gyre, slightly modulated with the AW intrusion.

Significance Statement

The diffusive convection staircases, composed of consecutive steps containing thick mixed layers and relatively thin interfaces, are prominent between the Lower Halocline Water (LHW) and the Atlantic Water (AW) throughout the Canada Basin. This sheet-like structure is in a bowl shape with lateral coherence over hundreds of kilometers. It is proposed that the distribution of the thermohaline sheet is mainly dominated by the Ekman convergence with Beaufort Gyre, as well as the AW intrusion. The present method of thermohaline-sheet identification would have more implications beyond this work. Since the thermohaline sheet remains mostly stable and coherent on a very large spatial–temporal scale, it might play a similar role as the water mass analysis in numerous applications, e.g., climate change.

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André Palóczy
and
J. H. LaCasce

Abstract

The instability of a surface-trapped jet over rough bottom topography is examined using a linearized quasigeostrophic model. The jet is laterally sheared and thus susceptible to both barotropic and baroclinic instability. The relative magnitude of the two depends on the jet width and on the spectral characteristics and amplitude of the bathymetry. The most unstable eddies in the upper layer are typically smaller over bathymetry than with a flat bottom. Topography also alters momentum flux convergence in the upper layer and causes the perturbations to resemble eddies in a 1.5-layer flow. But as long as the jet is wider than the deformation radius, baroclinic instability is present, yielding deep eddies that are phase-locked to those at the surface. In addition, topography facilitates scattering of energy at depth to other scales. So, instability over rough topography could be an efficient, and largely overlooked, means of transferring mesoscale energy to the dissipative scales.

Significance Statement

This study investigates the effects of bottom roughness on large-scale ocean currents and their associated eddies. Roughness affects the eddy size and speed and how they exchange energy with the mean flow. Roughness also facilitates energy transfer to smaller scales where it can be dissipated. Thus, instability over rough topography could be an important part of the oceanic energy balance.

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