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Kunxiang Wang
,
Dongliang Yuan
, and
Kaixin Ren

Abstract

The seasonal and interannual variations of the Mindanao Current retroflection are studied using surface geostrophic currents of satellite altimeters covering January 1993 through December 2019. The results show that the Mindanao Current mainstream retroflects back to the Pacific Ocean north of the Talaud Island in boreal summer, and intrudes into the northern Maluku Sea in boreal winter. The variation of the Mindanao Current retroflection has resulted in the seasonal movement of the sea surface color fronts at the entrance of the Indonesian seas, both of which are highly correlated to the seasonal transport variations of the North Equatorial Countercurrent, lagging the latter due to the westward propagation of the seasonal Rossby waves. The MC retroflection and sea surface color fronts are found to move synchronously on interannual time scales at the Pacific entrance of the Indonesian seas, with the Niño 3.4 index lagging by about 2 months. The MC retroflection intrudes anomalously deeper than the seasonal cycle into the northern Maluku Sea in El Niño winters, while tends to take a leaping path in La Niña winters. During El Niño summers, the leaping path of the MC is changed into a penetrating path sometimes.

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Anirban Guha
and
Akanksha Gupta

Abstract

By providing mathematical estimates, this paper answers a fundamental question – “what leads to Stokes drift”? Although overwhelmingly understood for water waves, Stokes drift is a generic mechanism that stems from kinematics and occurs in any non-transverse wave in fluids. To showcase its generality, we undertake a comparative study of the pathline equation of sound (1D) and intermediate-depth water (2D) waves. Although we obtain a closed-form solution x(t) for the specific case of linear sound waves, a more generic and meaningful approach involves the application of asymptotic methods and expressing variables in terms of the Lagrangian phase θ. We show that the latter reduces the 2D pathline equation of water waves to 1D. Using asymptotic methods, we solve the respective pathline equation for sound and water waves, and for each case, we obtain a parametric representation of particle position x(θ) and elapsed time t(θ). Such a parametric description has allowed us to obtain second-order-accurate expressions for the time duration, horizontal displacement, and average horizontal velocity of a particle in the crest and trough phases. All these quantities are of higher magnitude in the crest phase in comparison to the trough, leading to a forward drift, i.e. Stokes drift. We also explore particle trajectory due to second-order Stokes waves and compare it with linear waves. While finite amplitude waves modify the estimates obtained from linear waves, the understanding acquired from linear waves is generally found to be valid.

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Yankun Gong
,
Zhiwu Chen
,
Ruixiang Zhao
,
Jiexin Xu
,
Juan Li
,
Jiesuo Xie
,
Yinghui He
,
Xiao-Hua Zhu
,
Yuhan Sun
, and
Shuqun Cai

Abstract

Joint effects of winds and tides on near-inertial internal waves (NIWs) are numerically investigated via a series of three-dimensional quasi-realistic simulations in the northern South China Sea (NSCS). Model results demonstrate that in the presence of wind-induced NIWs, more tidal energy is transferred to NIWs, while in the presence of tide-induced NIWs, the extreme wind (cyclone) would inject less near-inertial kinetic energy (NIKE). The interaction between wind-induced and tide-induced NIWs produces total NIKE more (or less) than a linear superposition of that generated by wind and tide forcing alone at different sites in the NSCS. Specifically, near the Luzon Strait, both tides and winds make positive contributions to the local near-inertial energy input, resulting in more than 30% enhancement of total NIKE (>0.5 kJ m−2). However, in some deep-water regions along the cyclone paths, energy is transferred from cyclones to NIWs and also from NIWs to internal tides. Due to this “energy pipeline” effect, tide- and wind-induced NIWs contribute to weakening of total NIKE (∼0.3 kJ m−2 or 30%). Additionally, sensitivity experiments with varying initial tidal phases indicate that the interaction between wind-induced NIKE and tide-induced NIKE is robust in most model domain (over 80%) under different phase alignments between wind- and tide-induced NIWs. From the perspective of cyclones, tide-induced NIKE is comparable to wind-induced NIKE in the Luzon Strait before the arrival of cyclones, while tide-induced NIKE is two orders of magnitude smaller than wind-induced NIKE in most of the NSCS after the arrival of cyclones. Overall, our results highlight the joint effects of wind and tide forcing on the local NIW dynamics in the NSCS.

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Elle Weeks
,
Martin Losch
, and
Eli Tziperman

Abstract

Coastal upwelling, driven by alongshore winds and characterized by cold sea surface temperatures and high upper-ocean nutrient content, is an important physical process sustaining some of the oceans’ most productive ecosystems. To fully understand the ocean properties in eastern boundary upwelling systems, it is important to consider the depth of the source waters being upwelled, as it affects both the SST and the transport of nutrients toward the surface. Here, we construct an upwelling source depth distribution for parcels at the surface in the upwelling zone. We do so using passive tracers forced at the domain boundary for every model depth level to quantify their contributions to the upwelled waters. We test the dependence of this distribution on the strength of the wind stress and stratification using high-resolution regional ocean simulations of an idealized coastal upwelling system. We also present an efficient method for estimating the mean upwelling source depth. Furthermore, we show that the standard deviation of the upwelling source depth distribution increases with increasing wind stress and decreases with increasing stratification. These results can be applied to better understand and predict how coastal upwelling sites and their surface properties have and will change in past and future climates.

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Anda Vladoiu
,
Ren-Chieh Lien
, and
Eric Kunze

Abstract

Shipboard ADCP velocity and towed CTD chain density measurements from the eastern North Pacific pycnocline are used to segregate energy between linear internal waves (IW) and linear vortical motion (quasi-geostrophy, QG) in 2-D wavenumber space spanning submesoscale horizontal wavelengths λx ∼ 1 – 50 km and finescale vertical wavelengths λz ∼ 7 – 100 m. Helmholtz decomposition and a new Burger-number Bu decomposition yield similar results despite different methodologies. Partition between IW and QG total energies depends on 𝐵𝑢. For Bu < 0.01, available potential energy EP exceeds horizontal kinetic energy EK and is contributed mostly by QG. In contrast, energy is nearly equipartitioned between QG and IW for Bu » 1. For Bu < 2, EK is contributed mainly by IW, and EP by QG, while, for Bu > 2, contributions are reversed. Vertical shear variance is contributed primarily by near-inertial IW at small λz , implying negligible QG contribution to vertical shear instability. Conversely, both QG and IW at the smallest λx ∼ 1 km contribute large horizontal shear variance, such that both may lead to horizontal shear instability. Both QG and IW contribute to vortex-stretching at small vertical scales. For QG, the relative vorticity contribution to linear potential vorticity anomaly increases with decreasing horizontal and increasing vertical scales.

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Maya I. Jakes
,
Helen E. Phillips
,
Annie Foppert
,
Ajitha Cyriac
,
Nathaniel L. Bindoff
,
Stephen R. Rintoul
, and
Andrew F. Thompson

Abstract

Eddy stirring at mesoscale oceanic fronts generates finescale filaments, visible in submesoscale-resolving model simulations and high-resolution satellite images of sea surface temperature, ocean color, and sea ice. Submesoscale filaments have widths of O(1–10) km and evolve on time scales of hours to days, making them extremely challenging to observe. Despite their relatively small scale, submesoscale processes play a key role in the climate system by providing a route to dissipation; altering the stratification of the ocean interior; and generating strong vertical velocities that exchange heat, carbon, nutrients, and oxygen between the mixed layer and the ocean interior. We present a unique set of in situ and satellite observations in a standing meander region of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) that supports the theory of cold filamentary intensification—revealing enhanced vertical velocities and evidence of subduction and ventilation associated with finescale cold filaments. We show that these processes are not confined to the mixed layer; EM-APEX floats reveal enhanced downward velocities (>100 m day−1) and evidence of ageostrophic motion extending as deep as 1600 dbar, associated with a ∼20-km-wide cold filament. A finer-scale (∼5 km wide) cold filament crossed by a towed Triaxus is associated with anomalous chlorophyll and oxygen values extending at least 100–200 dbar below the base of the mixed layer, implying recent subduction and ventilation. Energetic standing meanders within the weakly stratified ACC provide an environment conductive to the generation of finescale filaments that can transport water mass properties across mesoscale fronts and deep into the ocean interior.

Open access
Miriam F. Sterl
,
Joseph H. LaCasce
,
Sjoerd Groeskamp
,
Aleksi Nummelin
,
Pål E. Isachsen
, and
Michiel L. J. Baatsen

Abstract

Oceanic mesoscale eddy mixing plays a crucial role in the Earth’s climate system by redistributing heat, salt and carbon. For many ocean and climate models, mesoscale eddies still need to be parameterized. This is often done via an eddy diffusivity, Κ, which sets the strength of turbulent downgradient tracer fluxes. A well known effect is the modulation of Κ in the presence of background potential vorticity (PV) gradients, which suppresses cross-PV gradient mixing. Topographic slopes can induce such suppression through topographic PV gradients. However, this effect has received little attention, and topographic effects are often not included in parameterizations for Κ. In this study, we show that it is possible to describe the effect of topography on Κ analytically in a barotropic framework, using a simple stochastic representation of eddy-eddy interactions. We obtain an analytical expression for the depth-averaged Κ as a function of the bottom slope, which we validate against diagnosed eddy diffusivities from a numerical model. The obtained analytical expression can be generalized to any constant barotropic PV gradient. Moreover, the expression is consistent with empirical parameterizations for eddy diffusivity over topography from previous studies and provides a physical rationalization for these parameterizations. The new expression helps to understand how eddy diffusivities vary across the ocean, and thus how mesoscale eddies impact ocean mixing processes.

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Daehyuk Kim
,
Hong-Ryeol Shin
,
Cheol-Ho Kim
,
Joowan Kim
, and
Naoki Hirose

Abstract

The effects of external forcing variation on the intrinsic variability in the upper-layer circulation occurring within the East Sea (Sea of Japan) and its physical mechanism are analyzed using numerical experiments. In this study, the experiments were conducted with climatological annual/monthly mean forcings (constant/seasonal forcings). The intrinsic variability is mainly distributed in the meandering regions around the main current path with the comparatively large variability limited to the southern region. The reason of greater intrinsic variability mainly in the southern part of the East Sea than in the northern part is that more energy is required from external forcings to change the thicker upper layer formed in the northern part due to seasonal forcings (strong wind stress and surface heat flux). Although the experiments show slight differences, westward propagation of the Rossby wave appears in areas where the variability is large. The transport of the eddy momentum flux associated with the Rossby wave modulates the strength of the eastward jet and the north–south shift of its axis. Among the external forcings, the volume transport through the Korea/Tsushima Strait is the most important driver of intrinsic variability, and wind stress plays an important role in expanding and strengthening intrinsic variability.

Significance Statement

Intrinsic variability is an important factor in understanding the total variability in the upper-layer circulation in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). However, the physical mechanisms of intrinsic variability remain unclear. This study investigates the physical mechanisms of intrinsic variability occurring within the East Sea. The intrinsic variability occurs mainly around the main current path, especially the meandering current. Based on numerical experiments, the mechanism of the intrinsic variability is represented by the fluctuation in the strength of the eastward current or the north–south movement of its axis caused by the Rossby wave.

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M. Schmitt
,
H. T. Pham
,
S. Sarkar
,
K. Klingbeil
, and
L. Umlauf

Abstract

Diurnal Warm Layers (DWLs) form near the surface of the ocean on days with strong solar radiation, weak to moderate winds, and small surface-wave effects. Here, we use idealized second-moment turbulence modelling, validated with Large Eddy Simulations (LES), to study the properties, dynamics and energetics of DWLs across the entire physically relevant parameter space. Both types of models include representations of Langmuir turbulence (LT). We find that LT only slightly modifies DWL thicknesses and other bulk parameters under equilibrium wave conditions, but leads to a strong reduction in surface temperature and velocity with possible implications for air-sea coupling. Comparing tropical and the less frequently studied high-latitude DWLs, we find that LT has a strong impact on the energy budget and that rotation at high latitudes strongly modifies the DWL energetics, suppressing net energy turnover and entrainment. We identify the key non-dimensional parameters for DWL evolution and find that the scaling relations of Price et al. (1986) provide a reliable representation of the DWL bulk properties across a wide parameter space, including high-latitude DWLs. We present different sets of revised model coefficients that include the deepening of the DWL due to LT and other aspects of our more advanced turbulence model to describe DWL properties at midday and during the DWL temperature peak in the afternoon, which we find to occur around 15:00-16:30 for a broad range of parameters.

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Takaya Uchida
,
Quentin Jamet
,
William K. Dewar
,
Bruno Deremble
,
Andrew C. Poje
, and
Luolin Sun

Abstract

We examine the ocean energy cycle where the eddies are defined about the ensemble mean of a partially air–sea coupled, eddy-rich ensemble simulation of the North Atlantic. The decomposition about the ensemble mean leads to a parameter-free definition of eddies, which is interpreted as the expression of oceanic chaos. Using the ensemble framework, we define the reservoirs of mean and eddy kinetic energy (MKE and EKE, respectively) and mean total dynamic enthalpy (MTDE). We opt for the usage of dynamic enthalpy (DE) as a proxy for potential energy due to its dynamically consistent relation to hydrostatic pressure in Boussinesq fluids and nonreliance on any reference stratification. The curious result that emerges is that the potential energy reservoir cannot be decomposed into its mean and eddy components, and the eddy flux of DE can be absorbed into the EKE budget as pressure work. We find from the energy cycle that while baroclinic instability, associated with a positive vertical eddy buoyancy flux, tends to peak around February, EKE takes its maximum around September in the wind-driven gyre. Interestingly, the energy input from MKE to EKE, a process sometimes associated with barotropic processes, becomes larger than the vertical eddy buoyancy flux during the summer and autumn. Our results question the common notion that the inverse energy cascade of wintertime EKE energized by baroclinic instability within the mixed layer is solely responsible for the summer-to-autumn peak in EKE and suggest that both the eddy transport of DE and transfer of energy from MKE to EKE contribute to the seasonal EKE maxima.

Significance Statement

The Earth system, including the ocean, is chaotic. Namely, the state to be realized is highly sensitive to minute perturbations, a phenomenon commonly known as the “butterfly effect.” Here, we run a sweep of ocean simulations that allow us to disentangle the oceanic expression of chaos from the oceanic response to the atmosphere. We investigate the energy pathways between the two in a physically consistent manner in the North Atlantic region. Our approach can be extended to robustly examine the temporal change of oceanic energy and heat distribution under a warming climate.

Open access