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Elizabeth Brasseale and Parker MacCready

Abstract

The inflow to an estuary originates on the shelf. It flushes the estuary and can bring in nutrients, heat, salt, and hypoxic water, having consequences for estuarine ecosystems and fjordic glacial melt. However, the source of estuarine inflow has only been explored in simple models that do not resolve interactions between inflow and outflow outside of the estuarine channel. This study addressed the estuary inflow problem using variations on a three-dimensional primitive equation model of an idealized estuarine channel next to a sloping, unstratified shelf with mixing provided by a single-frequency, 12-h tide. Inflow was identified using particle tracking, momentum budgets, and total exchange flow. Inflow sources were found in shelf water downstream of the estuary, river plume water, and shelf water upstream of the estuary. Downstream is defined here with respect to the direction of coastal trapped wave propagation, which is to the right for an observer looking seaward from the estuary mouth in the Northern Hemisphere. Downstream of the estuary and offshore of the plume, the dynamics were quasigeostrophic, consistent with previous simple models. The effect of this inflowing current on the geometry of the river plume front was found to be small. Novel sources of inflow were identified which originated from within the plume and upstream of the estuary.

Open access
Haijin Cao, Baylor Fox-Kemper, and Zhiyou Jing

Abstract

The submesoscale energy budget is complex and remains understood only in region-by-region analyses. Based on a series of nested numerical simulations, this study investigated the submesoscale energy budget and flux in the upper ocean of the Kuroshio Extension, including some innovations for examining submesoscale energy budgets in general. The highest-resolution simulation on a ~500-m grid resolves a variety of submesoscale instabilities allowing an energetic analysis in the submesoscale range. The frequency–wavenumber spectra of vertical vorticity variance (i.e., enstrophy) and horizontal divergence variance were used to identify the scales of submesoscale flows as distinct from those of inertia–gravity waves but dominating horizontal divergence variance. Next, the energy transfers between the background scales and the submesoscale were examined. The submesoscale kinetic and potential energy (SMKE and SMPE) were mainly contained in the mixed layer and energized through both barotropic (shear production) and baroclinic (buoyancy production) routes. Averaged over the upper 50 m of ROMS2, the baroclinic transfers amounted to approximately 75% of the sources for the SMKE (3.42 × 10−9 W kg−1) versus the remaining 25% (1.12 × 10−9 W kg−1) via barotropic downscale KE transfers. The KE field was greatly strengthened by energy sources through the boundary—this flux is larger than the mesoscale-to-submesoscale transfers in this region. Spectral energy production, importantly, reveals upscale KE transfers at larger submesoscales and downscale KE transfers at smaller submesoscales (i.e., a transition from inverse to forward KE cascade). This study seeks to extend our understanding of the energy cycle to the submesoscale and highlight the forward KE cascade induced by upper-ocean submesoscale activities in the research domain.

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Youjia Zou and Xiangying Xi

Abstract

It is generally accepted that the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) dominates interannual climate variability. Yet, its genesis and maintenance mechanisms are still under intense debate, with no scientific consensus. Some authors argued that the westerly winds originating over the equatorial Indian Ocean are significantly enhanced and extend eastward in the western and central equatorial Pacific during El Niño events, thus advecting the warm pool eastward along the equator and causing SST anomalies. However, this assertion is unlikely to be quantitatively supported by observational data. Here we present detailed observational data and modeling evidence to demonstrate that the westerly winds had little change in intensity in the western equatorial Pacific, with a wider zonal extent only during most El Niño events, and with a slight increase even in the most pronounced 1997 El Niño. Instead, an eastward equatorial current near the equator has been observed and is considered to play a significant role in shifting the eastern edge of the warm pool eastward, elevating SSTs in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and giving rise to El Niño, with the interactions between the eastward warm pool and the upwelling in the eastern cold tongue ascertaining the amplitudes of SST anomalies.

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Xiaojie Yu, Xinyu Guo, Huiwang Gao, and Tao Zou

Abstract

Hydrographic surveys have revealed that the Yellow River plume propagates in the direction opposite to that of a Kelvin wave (upstream) under a low river discharge condition, but turns downstream as the river discharge increases. A numerical model reproduced the upstream extension of the plume under the low river discharge condition and the transition to the downstream direction under the high river discharge condition, and confirmed that the summer wind is not the necessary condition for upstream extension of the plume. With the condition of low river discharge, the model also indicated the dependence of the upstream extension of the plume on the tidal range: extending upstream in spring tide but turning downstream in neap tide. The upstream movement of the plume results from the upstream transport of freshwater that depends on the upstream tide-induced residual current around the river mouth and the downstream density-driven current around the offshore plume front. With the condition of high river discharge, the upstream tide-induced residual current cannot compete with the downstream density-driven current and the plume turns downstream. Momentum analysis confirms the important roles of advection term and viscosity term in the condition of low river discharge and the shift to a Coriolis force–dominated system under high river discharge condition. An idealized model study suggests a dimensionless number for the river discharge changing the river plume extension from upstream to downstream under a specific upstream ambient current around the river mouth.

Open access
W. D. Smyth, S. J. Warner, J. N. Moum, H. T. Pham, and S. Sarkar

Abstract

Factors thought to influence deep cycle turbulence in the equatorial Pacific are examined statistically for their predictive capacity using a 13-yr moored record that includes microstructure measurements of the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate. Wind stress and mean current shear are found to be most predictive of the dissipation rate. Those variables, together with the solar buoyancy flux and the diurnal mixed layer thickness, are combined to make a pair of useful parameterizations. The uncertainty in these predictions is typically 50% greater than the uncertainty in present-day in situ measurements. To illustrate the use of these parameterizations, the record of deep cycle turbulence, measured directly since 2005, is extended back to 1990 based on historical mooring data. The extended record is used to refine our understanding of the seasonal variation of deep cycle turbulence.

Open access
Arjun Jagannathan, Kaushik Srinivasan, James C. McWilliams, M. Jeroen Molemaker, and Andrew L. Stewart

Abstract

Current–topography interactions in the ocean give rise to eddies spanning a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. The latest modeling efforts indicate that coastal and underwater topography are important generation sites for submesoscale coherent vortices (SCVs), characterized by horizontal scales of O(0.110)km. Using idealized, submesoscale and bottom boundary layer (BBL)-resolving simulations and adopting an integrated vorticity balance formulation, we quantify precisely the role of BBLs in the vorticity generation process. In particular, we show that vorticity generation on topographic slopes is attributable primarily to the torque exerted by the vertical divergence of stress at the bottom. We refer to this as the bottom stress divergence torque (BSDT). BSDT is a fundamentally nonconservative torque that appears as a source term in the integrated vorticity budget and is to be distinguished from the more familiar bottom stress curl (BSC). It is closely connected to the bottom pressure torque (BPT) via the horizontal momentum balance at the bottom and is in fact shown to be the dominant component of BPT in solutions with a well-resolved BBL. This suggests an interpretation of BPT as the sum of a viscous, vorticity-generating component (BSDT) and an inviscid, “flow-turning” component. Companion simulations without bottom drag illustrate that although vorticity generation can still occur through the inviscid mechanisms of vortex stretching and tilting, the wake eddies tend to have weaker circulation, be substantially less energetic, and have smaller spatial scales.

Open access
Bieito Fernández-Castro, Dafydd Gwyn Evans, Eleanor Frajka-Williams, Clément Vic, and Alberto C. Naveira-Garabato
Open access
Justin M. Brown and Timour Radko

Abstract

Arctic staircases mediate the heat transport from the warm water of Atlantic origin to the cooler waters of the Arctic mixed layer. For this reason, staircases have received much due attention from the community, and their heat transport has been well characterized for systems in the absence of external forcing. However, the ocean is a dynamic environment with large-scale currents and internal waves being omnipresent, even in regions shielded by sea ice. Thus, we have attempted to address the effects of background shear on fully developed staircases using numerical simulations. The code, which is pseudospectral, solves the governing equations for a Boussinesq fluid with temperature and salinity in a shearing coordinate system. We find that—unlike many other double-diffusive systems—the sheared staircase requires three-dimensional simulations to properly capture the dynamics. Our simulations predict shear patterns that are consistent with observations and show that staircases in the presence of external shear should be expected to transport heat and salt at least twice as efficiently as in the corresponding nonsheared systems. These findings may lead to critical improvements in the representation of microscale mixing in global climate models.

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Bertrand L. Delorme, Leif N. Thomas, Patrick Marchesiello, Jonathan Gula, Guillaume Roullet, and M. Jeroen Molemaker

Abstract

Recent theoretical work has shown that, when the so-called nontraditional effects are taken into account, the reflection of equatorially trapped waves (ETWs) off the seafloor generates strong vertical shear that results in bottom-intensified mixing at the inertial latitude of the ETW via a mechanism of critical reflection. It has been estimated that this process could play an important role in driving diapycnal upwelling in the abyssal meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). However, these results were derived under an idealized configuration with a monochromatic ETW propagating through a flat ocean at rest. To test the theory in a flow that is more representative of the ocean, we contrast a set of realistic numerical simulations of the eastern equatorial Pacific run using either the hydrostatic or quasi-hydrostatic approximation, the latter of which accounts for nontraditional effects. The simulations are nested into a Pacific-wide hydrostatic parent solution forced with climatological data and realistic bathymetry, resulting in an ETW field and a deep circulation consistent with observations. Using these simulations, we observe enhanced abyssal mixing in the quasi-hydrostatic run, even over smooth topography, that is absent in the hydrostatic run. The mixing is associated with inertial shear that has spatiotemporal properties consistent with the critical reflection mechanism. The enhanced mixing results in a weakening of the abyssal stratification and drives diapycnal upwelling in our simulation, in agreement with the predictions from the idealized simulations. The diapycnal upwelling is O(10) Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) and thus could play an important role in closing the AMOC.

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Kaushik Srinivasan, James C. McWilliams, and Arjun Jagannathan

Abstract

Submesoscale coherent vortices (SCVs) are a ubiquitous feature of topographic wakes in the extratropical oceans. Recent studies demonstrate a mechanism wherein high-vorticity bottom boundary layers (BBLs) on the slopes of the topography separate (forming shear layers), undergo instabilities, and subsequently merge in the horizontal and align in the vertical to form vertically coherent, columnar SCVs (i.e., with low vertical shear). Background rotation is critical to the vertical alignment of unstable vortical filaments into coherent SCVs. In the tropics, however, the weakening of rotation prevents this alignment. Employing an idealized framework of steady barotropic flow past an isolated seamount in a background of constant stratification N and rotation rate f, we examine the wake structure for a range of f values spanning values from the poles to the tropics. We find a systematic increase in the interior vertical shear with decreasing f that manifests as a highly layered wake structure consisting of vertically thin, “pancake” SCVs possessing a high vertical shear. A monotonic increase in the wake energy dissipation rate is concomitantly observed with decreasing f. By examining the evolution equations for the vertical shear and vertical enstrophy, we find that the interior shear generation is an advective process, with the location of peak shear generation approximately collocated with maximum energy dissipation. This leads to the inference that high-wake dissipation in tropical topographic wakes is caused by parameterized shear instabilities induced by interior advective generation of vertical shear in the near wake region.

Open access