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Kenneth G. Hughes, James N. Moum, Emily L. Shroyer, and William D. Smyth

Abstract

In low winds (2 m s−1), diurnal warm layers form, but shear in the near-surface jet is too weak to generate shear instability and mixing. In high winds (8 m s−1), surface heat is rapidly mixed downward and diurnal warm layers do not form. Under moderate winds of 3–5 m s−1, the jet persists for several hours in a state that is susceptible to shear instability. We observe low Richardson numbers of Ri ≈ 0.1 in the top 2 m between 1000 and 1600 local time (LT) (from 4 h after sunrise to 2 h before sunset). Despite Ri being well below the Ri = ¼ threshold, instabilities do not grow quickly, nor do they overturn. The stabilizing influence of the sea surface limits growth, a result demonstrated by both linear stability analysis and two-dimensional simulations initialized from observed profiles. In some cases, growth rates are sufficiently small (≪1 h−1) that mixing is not expected even though Ri < ¼. This changes around 1600–1700 LT. Thereafter, convective cooling causes the region of unstable flow to move downward, away from the surface. This allows shear instabilities to grow an order-of-magnitude faster and mix effectively. We corroborate the overall observed diurnal cycle of instability with a freely evolving, two-dimensional simulation that is initialized from rest before sunrise.

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Laurent M. Chérubin, Nicolas Le Paih, and Xavier Carton

Abstract

The Florida Current (FC) flows in the Straits of Florida (SoF) and connects the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf Stream (GS) in the western Atlantic Ocean. Its journey through the SoF is at time characterized by the formation and presence of mesoscale but mostly submesoscale frontal eddies on the cyclonic side of the current. The formation of those frontal eddies was investigated in a very high-resolution two-way nested simulation using the Regional Oceanic Modeling System (ROMS). Frontal eddies were either locally formed or originated from outside the SoF. The northern front of the incoming eddies was susceptible to superinertial shear instability over the shelf slope when the eddies were pushed up against the slope by the FC. Otherwise, incoming eddies could be advected, relatively unaffected by the current, when in the southern part of the straits. In the absence of incoming eddies, submesoscale eddies were locally formed by the roll-up of superinertial barotropically unstable vorticity filaments when the FC was pushed up against the shelf slope. The vorticity filaments were intensified by the friction-induced bottom-layer vorticity flux as previously demonstrated by Gula et al. in the GS. When the FC retreated farther south, negative-vorticity west Florida shelf waters overflowed into the SOF and led to the formation of submesoscale eddies by baroclinic instability. The instability regimes, that is, the submesoscale frontal eddies formation, appear to be controlled by the lateral “sloshing” of the FC in the SoF.

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Abhishek Savita, Jan D. Zika, Catia M. Domingues, Simon J. Marsland, Gwyn Dafydd Evans, Fabio Boeira Dias, Ryan M. Holmes, and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Ocean circulation and mixing regulate Earth’s climate by moving heat vertically within the ocean. We present a new formalism to diagnose the role of ocean circulation and diabatic processes in setting vertical heat transport in ocean models. In this formalism we use temperature tendencies, rather than explicit vertical velocities, to diagnose circulation. Using quasi-steady-state simulations from the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator Ocean Model (ACCESS-OM2), we diagnose a diathermal overturning circulation in temperature–depth space. Furthermore, projection of tendencies due to diabatic processes onto this coordinate permits us to represent these as apparent overturning circulations. Our framework permits us to extend the concept of “Super Residual Transport,” which combines mean and eddy advection terms with subgridscale isopycnal mixing due to mesoscale eddies but excludes small-scale three-dimensional turbulent mixing effect, to construct a new overturning circulation—the “Super Residual Circulation” (SRC). We find that in the coarse-resolution version of ACCESS-OM2 (nominally 1° horizontal resolution) the SRC is dominated by an ~11-Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) circulation that transports heat upward. The SRC’s upward heat transport is ~2 times as large in a finer-horizontal-resolution (0.1°) version of ACCESS, suggesting that a differing balance of super-residual and parameterized small-scale processes may emerge as eddies are resolved. Our analysis adds new insight into superresidual processes, because the SRC elucidates the pathways in temperature and depth space along which water mass transformation occurs.

Open access
Jianguo Yuan and Jun-Hong Liang

Abstract

Large-eddy simulations are used to investigate the influence of a horizontal frontal zone, represented by a stationary uniform background horizontal temperature gradient, on the wind- and wave-driven ocean surface boundary layers. In a frontal zone, the temperature structure, the ageostrophic mean horizontal current, and the turbulence in the ocean surface boundary layer all change with the relative angle among the wind and the front. The net heating and cooling of the boundary layer could be explained by the depth-integrated horizontal advective buoyancy flux, called the Ekman buoyancy flux (or the Ekman–Stokes buoyancy flux if wave effects are included). However, the detailed temperature profiles are also modulated by the depth-dependent advective buoyancy flux and submesoscale eddies. The surface current is deflected less (more) to the right of the wind and wave when the depth-integrated advective buoyancy flux cools (warms) the ocean surface boundary layer. Horizontal mixing is greatly enhanced by submesoscale eddies. The eddy-induced horizontal mixing is anisotropic and is stronger to the right of the wind direction. Vertical turbulent mixing depends on the superposition of the geostrophic and ageostrophic current, the depth-dependent advective buoyancy flux, and submesoscale eddies.

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William G. Large, Edward G. Patton, and Peter P. Sullivan

Abstract

Empirical rules for both entrainment and detrainment are developed from LES of the Southern Ocean boundary layer when the turbulence, stratification and shear cannot be assumed to be in equilibrium with diurnal variability in surface flux and wave (Stokes drift) forcing. A major consequence is the failure of down-gradient eddy viscosity, which becomes more serious with Stokes drift and is overcome by relating the angle between the stress and shear vectors to the orientations of Lagrangian shear to the surface and of local Eulerian shear over five meters. Thus, the momentum flux can be parameterized as a stress magnitude and this empirical direction. In addition, the response of a deep boundary layer to sufficiently strong diurnal heating includes boundary layer collapse and the subsequent growth of a morning boundary layer, whose depth is empirically related to the time history of the forcing, as are both morning detrainment and afternoon entrainment into weak diurnal stratification. Below the boundary layer, detrainment rules give the maximum buoyancy flux and its depth, as well a specific stress direction. Another rule relates both afternoon and night-time entrainment depth and buoyancy flux to surface layer turbulent kinetic energy production integrals. These empirical relationships are combined with rules for boundary layer transport to formulate two parameterizations; one based on eddy diffusivity and viscosity profiles and another on flux profiles of buoyancy and of stress magnitude. Evaluations against LES fluxes show the flux profiles to be more representative of the diurnal cycle, especially with Stokes drift.

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Ying Zhang, Yan Du, Tangdong Qu, Yu Hong, Catia M. Domingues, and Ming Feng

Abstract

The Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) plays an essential role in the global heat, freshwater, carbon, and nutrient budgets. In this study, decadal changes in the SAMW properties in the southern Indian Ocean (SIO) and associated thermodynamic and dynamic processes are investigated during the Argo era. Both temperature and salinity of the SAMW in the SIO show increasing trends during 2004–18. A two-layer structure of the SAMW trend, with more warm and salty light SAMW but less cool and fresh dense SAMW, is identified. The heaving and spiciness processes are important but have opposite contributions to the temperature and salinity trends of the SAMW. A significant deepening of isopycnals (heaving), peaking at σ θ = 26.7–26.8 kg m−3 in the middle layer of the SAMW, expands the warm and salty light SAMW and compresses the cool and fresh dense SAMW corresponding to the change in subduction rate during 2004–18. The change in the SAMW subduction rate is dominated by the change in the mixed layer depth, controlled by the changes in wind stress curl and surface buoyancy fluxes. An increase in the mixed layer temperature due to weakening northward Ekman transport of cool water leads to a lighter surface density in the SAMW formation region. Consequently, density outcropping lines in the SAMW formation region shift southward and favor the intrusion and entrainment of the cooler and fresher Antarctic surface water from the south, contributing to the cooling/freshening trend of isopycnals (spiciness). Subsequently, the cooler and fresher SAMW spiciness anomalies spread in the SIO via the subtropical gyre.

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Astrid Pacini, Robert S. Pickart, Isabela A. Le Bras, Fiammetta Straneo, N. Penny Holliday, and Michael A. Spall

Abstract

The boundary current system in the Labrador Sea plays an integral role in modulating convection in the interior basin. Four years of mooring data from the eastern Labrador Sea reveal persistent mesoscale variability in the West Greenland boundary current. Between 2014 and 2018, 197 middepth intensified cyclones were identified that passed the array near the 2000-m isobath. In this study, we quantify these features and show that they are the downstream manifestation of Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW) cyclones. A composite cyclone is constructed revealing an average radius of 9 km, maximum azimuthal speed of 24 cm s−1, and a core propagation velocity of 27 cm s−1. The core propagation velocity is significantly smaller than upstream near Denmark Strait, allowing them to trap more water. The cyclones transport a 200-m-thick lens of dense water at the bottom of the water column and increase the transport of DSOW in the West Greenland boundary current by 17% relative to the background flow. Only a portion of the features generated at Denmark Strait make it to the Labrador Sea, implying that the remainder are shed into the interior Irminger Sea, are retroflected at Cape Farewell, or dissipate. A synoptic shipboard survey east of Cape Farewell, conducted in summer 2020, captured two of these features that shed further light on their structure and timing. This is the first time DSOW cyclones have been observed in the Labrador Sea—a discovery that could have important implications for interior stratification.

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Chiung-Yin Chang and Malte F. Jansen

Abstract

Although the reconfiguration of the abyssal overturning circulation has been argued to be a salient feature of Earth’s past climate changes, our understanding of the physical mechanisms controlling its strength remains limited. In particular, existing scaling theories disagree on the relative importance of the dynamics in the Southern Ocean versus the dynamics in the basins to the north. In this study, we systematically investigate these theories and compare them with a set of numerical simulations generated from an ocean general circulation model with idealized geometry, designed to capture only the basic ingredients considered by the theories. It is shown that the disagreement between existing theories can be partially explained by the fact that the overturning strengths measured in the channel and in the basin scale distinctly with the external parameters, including surface buoyancy loss, diapycnal diffusivity, wind stress, and eddy diffusivity. The overturning in the reentrant channel, which represents the Southern Ocean, is found to be sensitive to all these parameters, in addition to a strong dependence on bottom topography. By contrast, the basin overturning varies with the integrated surface buoyancy loss rate and diapycnal diffusivity but is mostly unaffected by winds and channel topography. The simulated parameter dependence of the basin overturning can be described by a scaling theory that is based only on basin dynamics.

Open access
Charles W. McMahon, Joseph J. Kuehl, and Vitalii A. Sheremet

Abstract

The dynamics of gap-leaping western boundary currents (e.g., the Kuroshio intrusion, the Loop Current) are explored through rotating table experiments and a numerical model designed to replicate the experimental apparatus. Simplified experimental and numerical models of gap-leaping systems are known to exhibit two dominant states (leaping or penetrating into the gap) as the inertia of the current competes with vorticity constraints (in this case the β effect). These systems are also known to admit multiple states with hysteresis. To advance toward more realistic oceanographic scenarios, recent studies have explored the effects of islands, mesoscale eddies, and variable baroclinic deformation radii on the dynamical system. Here, the effect of throughflow forcing is considered, with particle tracking velocimetry (PTV) used in the laboratory experiments. Mean transport in or out of the gap is found to significantly shift the hysteresis range as well as change its width. Because of these transformations, changes in throughflow can induce transitions in the gap-leaping system when near a critical state (leaping-to-penetrating/penetrating-to-leaping). Results from the study are interpreted within a nonlinear dynamical framework and various properties of the system are explored.

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Ruibin Ding, Jiliang Xuan, Tao Zhang, Lei Zhou, Feng Zhou, Qicheng Meng, and In-Sik Kang

Abstract

Eddy-induced heat transport (EHT) in the South China Sea (SCS) is important for the heat budget. However, knowledge of its variability is limited owing to discrepancies arising from the limitation of the downgradient method and uncertainties arising from numerical models. Herein, we investigated the spatiotemporal variability and dynamics of EHT using a well-validated assimilated model. In particular, to the southeast of Vietnam (SEV) and west of Luzon Strait (WLS), significant values of annual mean EHT are observed and most EHT is confined in the upper 400 m. EHT also exhibits significant seasonality, and the largest EHT amplitude in autumn at SEV is mainly driven by the wind stress curl, while that in winter at WLS is mainly related to the Kuroshio intrusion. Energy budget analysis reveals that both the barotropic and baroclinic instabilities increase the eddy kinetic energy in autumn at SEV, whereas only the barotropic instability contributes to the eddy kinetic energy at WLS in winter. Specially, an upgradient EHT is observed at WLS in all four seasons, characterized by the same directions between EHT and mean temperature gradient. The upgradient EHT at WLS is induced by the baroclinic instability through an inverse energy transfer, which is generated by the interaction between the Kuroshio intrusion and topography below the surface layer. Moreover, the most significant upgradient EHT in winter shows a wave-like southwestward-propagating pattern in the subsurface layer.

Open access