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D. A. Cherian
,
Y. Guo
, and
F. O. Bryan

Abstract

We assess the representation of mesoscale stirring in a suite of models against an estimate derived from microstructure data collected during the North Atlantic Tracer Release Experiment (NATRE). We draw heavily from the approximate temperature variance budget framework of Ferrari and Polzin. This framework assumes two sources of temperature variance away from boundaries: first, the vertical stirring of the large-scale mean vertical gradient by small-scale turbulence; and second, the lateral stirring of large-scale mean along-isopycnal gradients by mesoscale eddies. Temperature variance so produced is transformed and on average transferred down scales for ultimate dissipation at the microscale at a rate χ estimated using microstructure observations. Ocean models represent these pathways by a vertical mixing parameterization, and an along-isopycnal lateral mixing parameterization (if needed). We assess the rate of variance production by the latter as a residual from the NATRE dataset and compare against the parameterized representations in a suite of model simulations. We find that variance production due to lateral stirring in a Parallel Ocean Program version 2 (POP2) 1/10° simulation agrees well, to within the estimated error bars, with that inferred from the NATRE estimate. A POP2 1° simulation and the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean Version 4 release 4 (ECCOV4r4) simulation appear to dissipate an order of magnitude too much variance by applying a lateral diffusivity, when compared to the NATRE estimate, particularly below 1250 m. The ECCOV4r4-adjusted lateral diffusivities are elevated where the microstructure suggests elevated χ sourced from mesoscale stirring. Such elevated values are absent in other diffusivity estimates suggesting the possibility of compensating errors and caution in interpreting ECCOV4r4’s adjusted lateral diffusivities.

Significance Statement

We look at whether microstructure turbulence observations can provide a useful metric for judging the fidelity of representation of mesoscale stirring in a suite of models. We focus on the region of the North Atlantic Tracer Release Experiment (NATRE), the site of a major ocean turbulence observation campaign, and use an approximate variance budget framework for the region with observational estimates from . The approach provides a novel framework to evaluate the approximate representation of mesoscale stirring in a variety of models.

Open access
Alejandra Sanchez-Rios
,
R. Kipp Shearman
,
Craig M. Lee
,
Harper L. Simmons
,
Louis St. Laurent
,
Andrew J. Lucas
,
Takashi Ijichi
, and
Sen Jan

Abstract

The Kuroshio occasionally carries warm and salty North Pacific Water into fresher waters of the South China Sea, forming a front with a complex temperature–salinity (TS) structure to the west of the Luzon Strait. In this study, we examine the TS interleavings formed by alternating layers of North Pacific Water with South China Sea Water in a front formed during the winter monsoon season of 2014. Using observations from a glider array following a free-floating wave-powered vertical profiling float to calculate the fine-scale parameters Turner angle, Tu, and Richardson number, Ri, we identified areas favorable to double-diffusion convection and shear instability observed in a TS interleaving. We evaluated the contribution of double-diffusion convection and shear instabilities to the thermal variance diffusivity, χ, using microstructure data and compared it with previous parameterization schemes based on fine-scale properties. We discover that turbulent mixing is not accurately parameterized when both Tu and Ri are within critical ranges (Tu > 60; Ri < ¼). In particular, χ associated with salt finger processes was an order of magnitude higher (6.7 × 10−7 K2 s−1) than in regions where only velocity shear was likely to drive mixing (8.7 × 10−8 K2 s−1).

Restricted access
Ellie Q. Y. Ong
,
Edward Doddridge
,
Navid C. Constantinou
,
Andrew McC. Hogg
, and
Matthew H. England

Abstract

The structure of the Antarctic Slope Current at the continental shelf is crucial in governing the poleward transport of warm water. Canyons on the continental slope may provide a pathway for warm water to cross the slope current and intrude onto the continental shelf underneath ice shelves, which can increase rates of ice shelf melting, leading to reduced buttressing of ice shelves, accelerating glacial flow and hence increased sea level rise. Observations and modeling studies of the Antarctic Slope Current and cross-shelf warm water intrusions are limited, particularly in the East Antarctica region. To explore this topic, an idealized configuration of the Antarctic Slope Current is developed, using an eddy-resolving isopycnal model that emulates the dynamics and topography of the East Antarctic sector. Warm water intrusions via canyons are found to occur in discrete episodes of large onshore flow induced by eddies, even in the absence of any temporal variability in external forcings, demonstrating the intrinsic nature of these intrusions to the slope current system. Canyon width is found to play a key role in modulating cross-shelf exchanges; warm water transport through narrower canyons is more irregular than transport through wider canyons. The intrinsically episodic cross-shelf transport is found to be driven by feedbacks between wind energy input and eddy generation in the Antarctic Slope Current. Improved understanding of the intrinsic variability of warm water intrusions can help guide future observational and modeling studies in the analysis of eddy impacts on Antarctic shelf circulation.

Restricted access
Anyifang Zhang
and
Xiping Yu

Abstract

Accurate estimation of the wind stress under extreme conditions is crucial for modeling storm surges and storm waves, which is important to the development of a warning system for coastal disaster prevention. The problem, however, is highly challenging owing to the presence of complex ocean surface processes under the action of unusually strong wind. In this study, the existing atmospheric wave boundary layer model is significantly enhanced by including various effects of wave breaking. Both the effect of wave breaking on the dissipation of energy and its effect on the transfer of momentum within the atmospheric boundary layer are carefully formulated. The wind stress coefficients obtained with the enhanced model are shown to be in good agreement with the measurements in not only deep but also shallow waters. The enhanced atmospheric wave boundary layer model is coupled with ocean wave as well as circulation models to simulate typhoon-induced storm surges and storm waves in the Pearl River delta region. The computational results show that the coupled model with improved evaluation of the wind stress is substantially advantageous when compared with existing approaches.

Restricted access
Peiran Yang
,
Zhao Jing
,
Haiyuan Yang
, and
Lixin Wu

Abstract

The vertical buoyancy flux Bf under the turbulent thermal wind (TTW) balance B f TTW plays an important role in restratifying the surface mixed layer in winter. So far, most of the global ocean models are too coarse to resolve this process. In this paper, a scale-aware parameterization is proposed for B f TTW and implemented in a hierarchy of regional ocean simulations over the winter Kuroshio Extension with horizontal resolutions ranging from 27 to 1 km. The parameterization depends on the Coriolis parameter, model-simulated turbulent vertical viscosity, horizontal density gradient, and a scaling relationship to adjust for the effects of model horizontal resolution on the simulated horizontal density gradient. It shows good skills in reconciling the difference between B f TTW in the coarse-resolution simulations (27, 9, and 3 km) and in the 1-km simulation where B f TTW is well resolved. Furthermore, implementation of the parameterization improves the simulated stratification in the surface mixed layer in coarse-resolution simulations.

Open access
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 nontransverse 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 phase, 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.

Restricted access
James R. Ledwell

Abstract

Lightening of bottom water is required to close the abyssal overturning circulation, believed to play an important role in the climate system. A tracer release experiment and turbulence measurement programs have revealed how bottom water is lightened, and illuminated the associated circulation in the deep Brazil Basin, a representative region of the global ocean. Tracer was released on an isopycnal surface about 4000 m deep, over one of the fracture zones emanating from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR). Tracer that mixed toward the bottom moved toward the MAR across isopycnal surfaces that bend down to intersect the bottom at a rate implying a near-bottom buoyancy flux of 1.5 × 10−9 m2 s−3, somewhat larger than inferred from dissipation measurements. The diffusivity at the level of the tracer release is estimated at 4.4 ± 1 × 10−4 m2 s−1, again larger than inferred from dissipation rates. The main patch moved southwest at about 2 cm s−1 while sinking due to the divergence of buoyancy flux above the bottom layer. The isopycnal eddy diffusivity was about 100 m2 s−1. Westward flow away from the MAR is the return flow balancing the eastward near-bottom upslope flow. The southward component of the flow is roughly consistent with conservation of potential vorticity. The circulation as well as the pattern of diapycnal flux are qualitatively the same as in but are more robust. The results indicate that diapycnal diffusivity is about twice that invoked by in calculating the basinwide buoyancy budget.

Significance Statement

Buoyancy flux into the abyssal waters is required to close the overturning circulation of those waters, an important part of the climate system. This contribution presents a robust view of the strength of that buoyancy flux and the associated circulation.

Restricted 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 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 K , which sets the strength of turbulent downgradient tracer fluxes. A well-known effect is the modulation of K 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 K . In this study, we show that it is possible to describe the effect of topography on K analytically in a barotropic framework, using a simple stochastic representation of eddy–eddy interactions. We obtain an analytical expression for the depth-averaged K 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.

Significance Statement

Large oceanic “whirls,” called eddies, can mix and transport ocean properties such as heat, salt, carbon, and nutrients. Mixing plays an important role for oceanic ecosystems and the climate system. In numerical simulations of Earth’s climate, eddy mixing is typically represented using a simplified expression. However, an effect that is often not included is that eddy mixing is weaker over a sloping seafloor. In most areas of the ocean the bottom slope is steep enough for this effect to be significant. In this study we derive an expression for eddy mixing that accounts for oceanic bottom slopes. The present effort provides a physical basis for eddy mixing over oceanic bottom slopes, justifying their use in climate models.

Restricted access
Zhumin Lu
and
Xiaodong Shang

Abstract

Despite the large radius (R 17) of gale-force wind of a tropical cyclone (TC), the observed TC-induced effects on mesoscale and large-scale ocean via the baroclinic geostrophic response are found to have a limited cross-track width; this strange but important phenomenon is interpreted here. Driven by the wind stress curl (WSC), the TC-induced geostrophic response is in fact regulated by along-track integration of the WSC (AIWSC). Constrained by atmospheric TC dynamics, the violent winds outside the radius (R max) of maximum wind of any TC must have nearly zero WSC. Consequently, the AIWSC function can be fit as a boxcar function with an extraordinarily large positive value between ±R max about the track. Based on this boxcar function, the theoretical estimate of the cross-track length scale of the baroclinic geostrophic response, Ld + R max, is presented, where Ld is the first-mode baroclinic Rossby deformation radius. Further, this scale is validated by numerical experiments to well explain the width of the altimetry-observed geostrophic response induced by any TC. Evidently, Ld + R max is far smaller than R 17 and thus the baroclinic geostrophic response generally has a limited width. This study implies that, although for a TC the violent winds outside R max are generally ∼90% of all winds, in an open ocean these winds may be useless to perturb the ocean interior due to the nearly zero WSC.

Significance Statement

Despite the large radius of gale-force wind of a tropical cyclone, the effects of a tropical cyclone on mesoscale and large-scale ocean are confined in a limited cross-track width; this strange but important phenomenon is interpreted here. In essence, the effects are exerted by the wind stress curl rather than by the wind stress. However, constrained by atmospheric dynamics, a tropical cyclone has most of the positive wind stress curl in the inner core and nearly zero wind stress curl far away from the inner core. Consequently, albeit violent, the winds outside the inner core cannot make an appreciable contribution to the physical processes below the mixed layer.

Restricted access
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 modeling, 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 nondimensional parameters for DWL evolution and find that the scaling relations of Price et al. 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 1500–1630 local time for a broad range of parameters.

Open access