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Till J. W. Wagner, Ian Eisenman, Amanda M. Ceroli, and Navid C. Constantinou

Abstract

Arctic icebergs, unconstrained sea ice floes, oil slicks, mangrove drifters, lost cargo containers, and other flotsam are known to move at 2%–4% of the prevailing wind velocity relative to the water, despite vast differences in the material properties, shapes, and sizes of objects. Here, we revisit the roles of density, aspect ratio, and skin and form drag in determining how an object is driven by winds and water currents. Idealized theoretical considerations show that although substantial differences exist for end members of the parameter space (either very thin or thick and very light or dense objects), most realistic cases of floating objects drift at approximately 3% of the free-stream wind velocity (measured outside an object’s surface boundary layer) relative to the water. This relationship, known as a long-standing rule of thumb for the drift of various types of floating objects, arises from the square root of the ratio of the density of air to that of water. We support our theoretical findings with flume experiments using floating objects with a range of densities and shapes.

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Yu-Kun Qian, Shiqiu Peng, Xixi Wen, and Hua Zhang

Abstract

The present study provides a theoretical linkage between the Lagrangian dispersion diffusivity and the diapycnal diffusivity in the context of vertical mixing, although previous studies have demonstrated their equivalence under the assumptions of stationary, homogeneous, and stratified turbulence. This is achieved in a new coordinate in which the fluid density is adiabatically sorted in the vertical direction. In the density-sorted coordinate, 1) the vertical motion of Lagrangian particles is solely subjected to irreversible diffusion process; 2) relations between Lagrangian dispersion diffusivity, diapycnal diffusivity, and the generalized Osborn diffusivity are exact; and 3) a generalization of the classical Munk balance between vertical advection and diffusion is also illustrated in an exact sense. Since the adiabatic sorting of the fluid does not require the turbulence to be statistically stationary, homogeneous, and stably stratified, the present solution eliminated these requirements and is thus more general than previous studies. Upon this, a new Lagrangian diagnostic is proposed to quantify the local, instantaneous, and irreversible mixing. Applications are demonstrated in a turbulent scenario of internal wave breaking induced by current–topography interaction, in which the turbulence is intermittent, nonstationary, and inhomogeneous.

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Keshav J. Raja, Maarten C. Buijsman, Jay F. Shriver, Brian K. Arbic, and Oladeji Siyanbola

Abstract

We study the generation, propagation, and dissipation of wind-generated near-inertial waves (NIWs) in a global 1/25° Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM) simulation with realistic atmospheric forcing and background circulation during 30 days in May–June 2019. The time-mean near-inertial wind power input and depth-integrated energy balance terms are computed for the total fields and the fields decomposed into vertical modes to differentiate between the radiative and (locally) dissipative components of NIW energy. Only 30.3% of the near-inertial wind input projects onto the first five modes, whereas the sum of the NIW energy in the first five modes adds up to 58% of the total NIW energy. Almost all of the depth-integrated NIW horizontal energy flux projects on the first five modes. The global distribution of dissipation and decay distances of NIW modes confirm that lower latitudes are a sink for NIW energy generated at higher latitudes. The locally dissipated fraction of NIW energy q local is found to be uniform throughout the global ocean, with a global mean value of 0.79. The horizontal NIW fluxes diverge from areas with cyclonic vorticity and converge in areas with anticyclonic vorticity; that is, anticyclonic eddies are a sink for NIW energy fluxes—in particular, for higher modes. Most of the residual energy that does not project onto modes propagates downward in anticyclonic eddies. The global near-inertial wind power input is 0.21 TW for the 30 days, of which only 19% is transmitted below 500-m depth.

Open access
Fabien Montiel, Alison L. Kohout, and Lettie A. Roach

Abstract

Despite a recent resurgence of observational studies attempting to quantify the ice-induced attenuation of ocean waves in polar oceans, the physical processes governing this phenomenon are still poorly understood. Most analyses have attempted to relate the spatial rate of wave attenuation to wave frequency, but have not considered how this relationship depends on ice, wave, and atmospheric conditions. An in-depth analysis of the wave-buoy data collected during the 2017 Polynyas, Ice Production, and Seasonal Evolution in the Ross Sea (PIPERS) program in the Ross Sea is conducted. Standard techniques are used to estimate the spatial rate of wave attenuation α, and the influence of a number of potential physical drivers on its dependence on wave period T is investigated. A power law is shown to consistently describe the α(T) relationship, in line with other recent analyses. The two parameters describing this relationship are found to depend significantly on sea ice concentration, mean wave period, and wind direction, however. Looking at cross correlations between these physical drivers, three regimes of ice-induced wave attenuation are identified, which characterize different ice, wave, and wind conditions, and very possibly different processes causing this observed attenuation. This analysis suggests that parameterizations of ice-induced wave decay in spectral wave models should be piecewise, so as to include their dependence on local ice, wave, and wind conditions.

Significance Statement

This work attempts to quantify how ice, wave, and wind conditions in polar oceans affect the way that ocean waves decay as a result of their interactions with sea ice. In situ wave data collected in the Ross Sea are analyzed along with several freely available ice, wave, and wind datasets. A simple relationship is shown to describe how wave attenuation due to sea ice depends on the wave period consistently across all data analyzed. However, the parameters of this relationship are significantly affected by sea ice concentration, mean wave period, and wind direction. This finding suggests that large-scale wave models need to account for this dependence on ice, wave, and wind conditions to improve wave forecast in ice-covered oceans.

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Qiang Wang, Bo Zhang, Lili Zeng, Yunkai He, Zewen Wu, and Ju Chen

Abstract

The properties and heat budget of marine heat waves (MHWs) on the northern South China Sea (SCS) continental shelf are investigated. MHWs with warming amplitudes above 1.5°C occur mainly along the coast, and their temperature anomaly decreases toward the open sea. MHWs with 1°–1.5°C warming and duration < 20 days dominate the northern SCS continental shelf. A heat budget analysis indicates that the main heat source is the sea surface net heat flux. Oceanic processes are dominated by the advection of mean temperature by the anomalous horizontal velocity (advha). The net contribution of advha always cools the upper layer of the ocean, resulting in the decay of MHWs. Active cross-slope water exchanges exist at the east and west sides of the northern SCS continental shelf edge, which makes the dominant contributions to the advha. In the MHW developing phase, the west (east) side makes a positive (negative) contribution to the advha. In the decay phase, both sides make a negative contribution to the advha, resulting in the rapid decay of MHWs. Although the contribution of advha to the heat budget varies along the northern SCS continental shelf edge, its net effect always cools the MHWs over the shelf. These results provide new insight into the characteristics and formation mechanism of MHWs on the northern SCS continental shelf; in particular, they clarify the respective contributions of air–sea flux and oceanic processes to MHWs.

Significance Statement

Marine heat waves (MHWs) are unusual warming events in oceans that heavily affect marine ecosystems and arouse great concern from citizens. MHWs are active in the northern South China Sea (SCS) continental shelf. On the northern SCS continental shelf, the sea surface net heat flux is the main heat source of MHWs, and ocean current anomalies always cool the upper layer of the ocean. Active cross-slope water exchange at the east and west sides of the northern SCS continental shelf edge is the main oceanic way that cools the water on the shelf, eventually resulting in the decay of MHWs.

Open access
D. B. Whitt, D. A. Cherian, R. M. Holmes, S. D. Bachman, R.-C. Lien, W. G. Large, and J. N. Moum

Abstract

Microstructure observations in the Pacific cold tongue reveal that turbulence often penetrates into the thermocline, producing hundreds of watts per square meter of downward heat transport during nighttime and early morning. However, virtually all observations of this deep-cycle turbulence (DCT) are from 0°, 140°W. Here, a hierarchy of ocean process simulations, including submesoscale-permitting regional models and turbulence-permitting large-eddy simulations (LES) embedded in a regional model, provide insight into mixing and DCT at and beyond 0°, 140°W. A regional hindcast quantifies the spatiotemporal variability of subsurface turbulent heat fluxes throughout the cold tongue from 1999 to 2016. Mean subsurface turbulent fluxes are strongest (∼100 W m−2) within 2° of the equator, slightly (∼10 W m−2) stronger in the northern than Southern Hemisphere throughout the cold tongue, and correlated with surface heat fluxes (r 2 = 0.7). The seasonal cycle of the subsurface heat flux, which does not covary with the surface heat flux, ranges from 150 W m−2 near the equator to 30 and 10 W m−2 at 4°N and 4°S, respectively. Aseasonal variability of the subsurface heat flux is logarithmically distributed, covaries spatially with the time-mean flux, and is highlighted in 34-day LES of boreal autumn at 0° and 3°N, 140°W. Intense DCT occurs frequently above the undercurrent at 0° and intermittently at 3°N. Daily mean heat fluxes scale with the bulk vertical shear and the wind stress, which together explain ∼90% of the daily variance across both LES. Observational validation of the scaling at 0°, 140°W is encouraging, but observations beyond 0°, 140°W are needed to facilitate refinement of mixing parameterization in ocean models.

Significance Statement

This work is a fundamental contribution to a broad community effort to improve global long-range weather and climate forecast models used for seasonal to longer-term prediction. Much of the predictability on seasonal time scales is derived from the slow evolution of the upper eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean as it varies between El Niño and La Niña conditions. This study presents state-of-the-art high-resolution regional numerical simulations of ocean turbulence and mixing in the eastern equatorial Pacific. The results inform future planning for field work as well as future efforts to refine the representation of ocean mixing in global forecast models.

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Zhongbin Sun, Zhiwei Zhang, Bo Qiu, Chun Zhou, Wei Zhao, and Jiwei Tian

Abstract

A train of subsurface mesoscale eddies (SMEs) consisting of two cyclones and two anticyclones was observed in the northeastern South China Sea (NESCS) in 2015 by a mooring array. In contrast to the widely reported surface-intensified eddies, the SMEs had weak surface signals but showed maximum velocity at ∼370 m with a magnitude of 17.2 cm s−1. The SMEs generally propagated westward with a speed of ∼4.3 cm s−1, which resulted in a distinct ∼120-day-period oscillations in the moored time series. Based on the concurrent velocity, temperature, and salinity from the mooring array, three-dimensional structures of the SMEs were constructed, which were then used to quantify water mass transports induced by them. The results revealed that all these SMEs were vertically tilted with an influence depth exceeding 1000 m. Water mass analysis suggested that the cyclonic and anticyclonic SMEs trapped the northwest Pacific water and the NESCS local water, respectively. The cyclones transported 1.00 ± 0.25 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) North Pacific Intermediate Water westward into the NESCS during the 2-yr observation period, accounting for 61.7% of the observed volume transport through the Luzon Strait between 25.8 and 27.4σ 0. Furthermore, it also showed that both the trapping and stirring effects of the SMEs induced an eastward heat transport across the Luzon Strait, but the role of the former was much more important than the latter. The present results suggested that the SMEs near the Luzon Strait may provide a novel route for the intermediate-layer water exchange between the NESCS and Pacific.

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R. Justin Small, Frank O. Bryan, and Stuart P. Bishop

Abstract

The water mass transformation (WMT) framework describes how water of one class, such as a discrete interval of density, is converted into another class via air–sea fluxes or interior mixing processes. This paper investigates how this process is modified at the surface when mesoscale ocean eddies are present, using a state-of-the-art high-resolution climate model with reasonable fidelity in the Southern Ocean. The method employed is to coarse-grain the high-resolution model fields to remove eddy signatures, and compare the results with those from the full model fields. This method shows that eddies reduced the WMT by 2–4 Sv (10%–20%; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) over a wide range of densities, from typical values of 20 Sv in the smoothed case. The corresponding water mass formation was reduced by 40% at one particular density increment, namely, between 1026.4 and 1026.5 kg m−3, which corresponds to the lighter end of the range of Indian Ocean Mode Water in the model. The effect of eddies on surface WMT is decomposed into three terms: direct modulation of the density outcrops, then indirectly, by modifying the air–sea density flux, and the combined effect of the two, akin to a covariance. It is found that the first and third terms dominate, i.e., smoothing the outcrops alone has a significant effect, as does the combination of smoothing both outcrops and density flux distributions, but smoothing density flux fields alone has little effect. Results from the coarse-graining method are compared to an alternative approach of temporally averaging the data. Implications for climate model resolution are also discussed.

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Michael A. Spall

Abstract

The mechanisms of wind-forced variability of the zonal overturning circulation (ZOC) are explored using an idealized shallow water numerical model, quasigeostrophic theory, and simple analytic conceptual models. Two wind-forcing scenarios are considered: midlatitude variability in the subtropical/subpolar gyres and large-scale variability spanning the equator. It is shown that the midlatitude ZOC exchanges water with the western boundary current and attains maximum amplitude on the same order of magnitude as the Ekman transport at a forcing period close to the basin-crossing time scale for baroclinic Rossby waves. Near the equator, large-scale wind variations force a ZOC that increases in amplitude with decreasing forcing period such that wind stress variability on annual time scales forces a ZOC of O(50) Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). For both midlatitude and low-latitude variability the ZOC and its related heat transport are comparable to those of the meridional overturning circulation. The underlying physics of the ZOC relies on the influences of the variation of the Coriolis parameter with latitude on both the geostrophic flow and the baroclinic Rossby wave phase speed as the fluid adjusts to time-varying winds.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to better understand how large-scale winds at mid- and low latitudes move water eastward or westward, even in the deep ocean that is not in direct contact with the atmosphere. This is important because these currents can shift where heat is stored in the ocean and if it might be released into the atmosphere. It is shown that large-scale winds can drive rapid cross-basin transports of water masses, especially so at low latitudes. The present results provide a guide on what controls this motion and highlight the importance of large-scale ocean waves on the water movement and heat storage.

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Ajitha Cyriac, Helen E. Phillips, Nathaniel L. Bindoff, and Ming Feng

Abstract

This study presents the characteristics and spatiotemporal structure of near-inertial waves and their interaction with Leeuwin Current eddies in the eastern south Indian Ocean as observed by Electromagnetic Autonomous Profiling Explorer (EM-APEX) floats. The floats sampled the upper ocean during July–October 2013 with a frequency of eight profiles per day down to 1200 m. Near-inertial waves (NIWs) are found to be the dominant signal in the frequency spectra. Complex demodulation is used to estimate the amplitude and phase of the NIWs from the velocity profiles. The NIW energy propagated from the base of the mixed layer downward into the ocean interior, following beam characteristics of linear wave theory. We visually identified a total of 15 near-inertial internal wave packets from the wave amplitudes and phases with a mean vertical wavelength of 89 ± 63 m, a mean horizontal wavelength of 69 ± 85 km, a mean horizontal group velocity of 3 ± 2 cm s−1, and a mean vertical group velocity of 9 ± 7 m day−1. A strong near-inertial packet with a kinetic energy of 20–30 J m−3 found propagating below 700 m suggests that the NIWs can contribute to deep ocean mixing. A blue shift of 10%–15% in the energy spectrum of the NIWs is observed in the upper 1200 m as the floats move toward the equator. The impacts of mesoscale eddies on the characteristics and propagation of the observed NIWs are also investigated. The elevated near-inertial shear variance in anticyclonic eddies suggests trapping of NIWs near the surface. Cyclonic eddies, in contrast, were associated with weak near-inertial shear variance in the upper 400 m.

Open access