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Kathryn L. Gunn
,
K McMonigal
,
Lisa M. Beal
, and
Shane Elipot

Abstract

The global freshwater cycle is intensifying: wet regions are prone to more rainfall, while dry regions experience more drought. Indian Ocean rim countries are especially vulnerable to these changes, but its oceanic freshwater budget—which records the basinwide balance between evaporation, precipitation, and runoff—has only been quantified at three points in time (1987, 2002, 2009). Due to this paucity of observations and large model biases, we cannot yet be sure how the Indian Ocean’s freshwater cycle has responded to climate change, nor by how much it varies at seasonal and monthly time scales. To bridge this gap, we estimate the magnitude and variability of the Indian Ocean’s freshwater budget using monthly varying oceanic data from May 2016 through April 2018. Freshwater converged into the basin with a mean rate and standard error of 0.35 ± 0.07 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1), indicating that basinwide air–sea fluxes are net evaporative. This balance is maintained by salty waters leaving the basin via the Agulhas Current and fresher waters entering northward across the southern boundary and via the Indonesian Throughflow. For the first time, we quantify seasonal and monthly variability in Indian Ocean freshwater convergence to find amplitudes of 0.33 and 0.16 Sv, respectively, where monthly changes reflect variability in oceanic, rather than air–sea, fluxes. Compared with the range of previous estimates plus independent measurements from a reanalysis product, we conclude that the Indian Ocean has remained net evaporative since the 1980s, in contrast to long-term changes in its heat budget. When disentangling anthropogenic-driven changes, these observations of decadal and intra-annual natural variability should be taken into account.

Open access
Erin M. Broatch
and
Parker MacCready

Abstract

A salinity variance framework is used to study mixing in the Salish Sea, a large fjordal estuary. Output from a realistic numerical model is used to create salinity variance budgets for individual basins within the Salish Sea for 2017–19. The salinity variance budgets are used to quantify the mixing in each basin and estimate the numerical mixing, which is found to contribute about one-third of the total mixing in the model. Whidbey Basin has the most intense mixing, due to its shallow depth and large river flow. Unlike in most other estuarine systems previously studied using the salinity variance method, mixing in the Salish Sea is controlled by the river flow and does not exhibit a pronounced spring–neap cycle. A “mixedness” analysis is used to determine when mixed water is expelled from the estuary. The river flow is correlated with mixed water removal, but the coupling is not as tight as with the mixing. Because the mixing is so highly correlated with the river flow, the long-term average approximation M = Qrs out s in can be used to predict the mixing in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound with good accuracy, even without any temporal averaging. Over a 3-yr average, the mixing in Puget Sound is directly related to the exchange flow salt transport.

Open access
Lina Yang
,
Raghu Murtugudde
,
Shaojun Zheng
,
Peng Liang
,
Wei Tan
,
Lei Wang
,
Baoxin Feng
, and
Tianyu Zhang

Abstract

The tropical Pacific currents from January 2004 to December 2018 are computed based on the gridded Argo temperatures and salinities using the P-vector method on an f plane and the geostrophic approximation on a β plane. Three branches of the South Equatorial Current (SEC) are identified, i.e., SEC(N) (2°S–5°N), SEC(M) (7°–3°S), and SEC(S) (20°–8°S), with the maximum zonal velocity of −55 cm s−1 and total volume transport of −49.8 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) occurring in the central-east Pacific. The seasonal variability of each branch shows a distinct and different westward propagation of zonal current anomalies, which are well mirrored by the SLA differences between 2°S and 5°N, between 3°S and 6°S, and between 8°S and 15°S, respectively. Most of the seasonal variations are successfully simulated by a simple analytical Rossby wave model, highlighting the significance of the first-mode baroclinic, linear Rossby waves, particularly those driven by the wind stress curl in the central-east Pacific. However, the linear theory fails to explain the SEC(M) variations in certain months in the central-east Pacific, where the first baroclinic mode contributes only around 50% of the explained variance to the equatorial surface currents. A nonlinear model involving higher baroclinic modes is suggested for a further diagnosis. Considering the crucial role played by the tropical Pacific in the natural climate variability via the El Niño–Southern Ocean dynamics and the ocean response to anthropogenic forcing via the ocean heat uptake in the eastern tropical Pacific, advancing the process understanding of the SEC from observations is critical.

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Laur Ferris
,
Donglai Gong
,
Carol Anne Clayson
,
Sophia Merrifield
,
Emily L. Shroyer
,
Madison Smith
, and
Louis St. Laurent

Abstract

The ocean surface boundary layer is a gateway of energy transfer into the ocean. Wind-driven shear and meteorologically forced convection inject turbulent kinetic energy into the surface boundary layer, mixing the upper ocean and transforming its density structure. In the absence of direct observations or the capability to resolve subgrid-scale 3D turbulence in operational ocean models, the oceanography community relies on surface boundary layer similarity scalings (BLS) of shear and convective turbulence to represent this mixing. Despite their importance, near-surface mixing processes (and ubiquitous BLS representations of these processes) have been undersampled in high-energy forcing regimes such as the Southern Ocean. With the maturing of autonomous sampling platforms, there is now an opportunity to collect high-resolution spatial and temporal measurements in the full range of forcing conditions. Here, we characterize near-surface turbulence under strong wind forcing using the first long-duration glider microstructure survey of the Southern Ocean. We leverage these data to show that the measured turbulence is significantly higher than standard shear-convective BLS in the shallower parts of the surface boundary layer and lower than standard shear-convective BLS in the deeper parts of the surface boundary layer; the latter of which is not easily explained by present wave-effect literature. Consistent with the CBLAST (Coupled Boundary Layers and Air Sea Transfer) low winds experiment, this bias has the largest magnitude and spread in the shallowest 10% of the actively mixing layer under low-wind and breaking wave conditions, when relatively low levels of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) in surface regime are easily biased by wave events.

Significance Statement

Wind blows across the ocean, turbulently mixing the water close to the surface and altering its properties. Without the ability to measure turbulence in remote locations, oceanographers use approximations called boundary layer scalings (BLS) to estimate the amount of turbulence caused by the wind. We compared turbulence measured by an underwater robot to turbulence estimated from wind speed to determine how well BLS performs in stormy places. We found that in both calm and stormy conditions, estimates are 10 times too small closest to the surface and 10 times too large deeper within the turbulently mixed surface ocean.

Open access
Tomas Chor
,
Jacob O. Wenegrat
, and
John Taylor

Abstract

Submesoscale processes provide a pathway for energy to transfer from the balanced circulation to turbulent dissipation. One class of submesoscale phenomena that has been shown to be particularly effective at removing energy from the balanced flow is centrifugal–symmetric instabilities (CSIs), which grow via geostrophic shear production. CSIs have been observed to generate significant mixing in both the surface boundary layer and bottom boundary layer flows along bathymetry, where they have been implicated in the mixing and water mass transformation of Antarctic Bottom Water. However, the mixing efficiency (i.e., the fraction of the energy extracted from the flow used to irreversibly mix the fluid) of these instabilities remains uncertain, making estimates of mixing and energy dissipation due to CSI difficult. In this work we use large-eddy simulations to investigate the mixing efficiency of CSIs in the submesoscale range. We find that centrifugally dominated CSIs (i.e., CSI mostly driven by horizontal shear production) tend to have a higher mixing efficiency than symmetrically dominated ones (i.e., driven by vertical shear production). The mixing efficiency associated with CSIs can therefore alternately be significantly higher or significantly lower than the canonical value used by most studies. These results can be understood in light of recent work on stratified turbulence, whereby CSIs control the background state of the flow in which smaller-scale secondary overturning instabilities develop, thus actively modifying the characteristics of mixing by Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities. Our results also suggest that it may be possible to predict the mixing efficiency with more readily measurable parameters (viz., the Richardson and Rossby numbers), which would allow for parameterization of this effect.

Restricted access
Junbiao Tu
,
Daidu Fan
,
Feixiang Sun
,
Alexis Kaminski
, and
William Smyth

Abstract

This study presents field observations of fluid mud and the flow instabilities that result from the interaction between mud-induced density stratification and current shear. Data collected by shipborne and bottom-mounted instruments in a hyperturbid estuarine tidal channel reveal the details of turbulent sheared layers in the fluid mud that persist throughout the tidal cycle. Shear instabilities form during periods of intense shear and strong mud-induced stratification, particularly with gradient Richardson number smaller than or fluctuating around the critical value of 0.25. Turbulent mixing plays a significant role in the vertical entrainment of fine sediment over the tidal cycle. The vertical extent of the billows identified seen in the acoustic images is the basis for two useful parameterizations. First, the aspect ratio (billow height/wavelength) is indicative of the initial Richardson number that characterizes the shear flow from which the billows grew. Second, we describe a scaling for the turbulent dissipation rate ε that holds for both observed and simulated Kelvin–Helmholtz billows. Estimates for the present observations imply, however, that billows growing on a lutocline obey an altered scaling whose origin remains to be explained.

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Kristin L. Zeiden
,
Daniel L. Rudnick
,
Jennifer A. MacKinnon
,
Verena Hormann
, and
Luca Centurioni

Abstract

Wake eddies are important to physical oceanographers because they tend to dominate current variability in the lee of islands. However, their generation and evolution has been difficult to study due to their intermittency. In this study, 2 years of observations from Surface Velocity Program (SVP) drifters are used to calculate relative vorticity (ζ) and diffusivity (κ) in the wake generated by westward flow past the archipelago of Palau. Over 2 years, 19 clusters of five SVP drifters ∼5 km in scale were released from the north end of the archipelago. Out of these, 15 were entrained in the wake. We compare estimates of ζ from both velocity spatial gradients (least squares fitting) and velocity time series (wavelet analysis). Drifters in the wake were entrained in either energetic submesoscale eddies with initial ζ up to 6f, or island-scale recirculation and large-scale lateral shear with ζ ∼ 0.1f. Here f is the local Coriolis frequency. Mean wake vorticity is initially 1.5f but decreases inversely with time (t), while mean cluster scale (L) increases as Lt. Kinetic energy measured by the drifters is comparatively constant. This suggests ζ is predominantly a function of scale, confirmed by binning enstrophy (ζ 2) by inverse scale. We find κL 4/3 and upper and lower bounds for L(t) are given by t 3/2 and t 1/2, respectively. These trends are predicted by a model of dispersion due to lateral shear. We argue the observed time dependence of cluster scale and vorticity suggest island-scale shear controls eddy growth in the wake of Palau.

Restricted access
Jia-Jia Chen
and
Xuhua Cheng

Abstract

The Southern Hemisphere temperature has experienced obvious changes with great spatial differences over the past several decades. Most regions show extreme warming, especially those located at 35° – 55°S. In contrast, subsurface cooling exists between 15° – 35°S in the Indian and Pacific basins. The subsurface temperature and salinity change can be divided into spiciness change and heave components. The results show the warming due to isopycnal movement being largely offset by significant spiciness cooling at mid-depth. Surface warming and subduction into the interior ocean account for subsurface spiciness cooling near 45°S, while surface freshening and penetration along isopycnals are more important to the subsurface spiciness cooling further north. The isobaric temperature change is associated with pure warming and pure heaving, and the subsurface cooling observed in the Indian and Pacific subtropics is predominantly attributed to pure heaving. This study provides a quantitative estimate of the relative contribution of surface temperature, salinity change and circulation adjustment in subsurface temperature change, highlighting the importance of circulation change in producing subsurface cooling. Further research is needed to understand why different processes dominate in different ocean sections.

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Hans Burchard
,
Karsten Bolding
,
Xaver Lange
, and
Alexander Osadchiev

Abstract

For Arctic estuaries which are characterized by land-fast sea-ice cover during the winter season, processes generating estuarine circulation and residual stratification have not yet been investigated, although some of the largest estuaries in the world belong to this class. Land-fast sea ice provides a no-slip surface boundary condition in addition to the bottom boundary, such that frictional effects are expected to be increased. For this study of estuarine circulation and residual stratification under land-fast sea ice, first a simple linear analytical model is used. To include tidally varying scenarios, a water-column model is applied with a second-moment turbulence closure to juxtapose free-surface and ice-covered estuaries. Well-mixed and strongly stratified tidally periodic scenarios are analyzed by means of a decomposition of estuarine circulation into contributions from gravitational circulation, eddy viscosity - shear covariance (ESCO), surface stress and river run-off. A new method is developed to also decompose tidal residual salinity anomaly profiles. Estuarine circulation intensity and tidally residual potential energy anomaly are studied for a parameter space spanned by the Simpson number and the Unsteadiness number. These are the major results of this study that will support future scenario studies in Arctic estuaries under conditions of accelerated warming: (i) Residual surface drag under ice opposes estuarine circulation; (ii) Residual differential advection under ice destabilizes the near-surface flow; (iii) Reversal of ESCO during strong stratification does not occur under land-fast sea ice; (iv) Tidal pumping (s-ESCO) contributes dominantly to residual stratification also with sea-ice cover.

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Matthew H. Alford
,
Jonathan D. Nash
, and
Maartin Buijsman

Abstract

Moored observations and a realistic, tidally-forced 3D model are presented of flow and internal-tide-driven turbulence over a supercritical 3D fan in southeastern Luzon Strait. Two stacked moored profilers, an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) and a thermistor string measured horizontal velocity, density, and salinity over nearly the entire water column every 1.5 hours for 50 days. Observed dissipation rate computed from Thorpe scales decays away from the bottom and shows a strong spring/neap cycle; observed depth-integrated dissipation rate scales as U 2.5±0.6 BT where UBT is the barotropic velocity. Vertical velocities are strong enough to be comparable at times to the vertical profiling speed of the moored profilers, requiring careful treatment to quantify bias in dissipation rate estimates. Observations and the model are in reasonable agreement for velocity, internal wave displacement and depth-integrated dissipation rate, allowing the model to be used to understand the 3D flow. Turbulence is maximum following the transition from up-fan to down-fan flow, consistent with breaking lee waves advected past the mooring as seen previously at the Hawaiian Ridge, but asymmetric flow arises due to the 3D topography. Observed turbulence varies by a factor of two over the four observed spring tides as low-frequency near-bottom flow changes, but the exact means for inclusion of such low-frequency effects is not clear. Our results suggest that for the extremely energetic turbulence associated with breaking lee waves, dissipation rates may be quantitatively predicted to within a factor of two or so using numerical models and simple scalings.

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