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Tobias Kukulka and Todd X. Thoman

Abstract

Dispersion processes in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) determine marine material distributions such as those of plankton and pollutants. Sheared velocities drive shear dispersion, which is traditionally assumed to be due to mean horizontal currents that decrease from the surface. However, OSBL turbulence supports along-wind jets; located in near-surface convergence and downwelling regions, such turbulent jets contain strong local shear. Through wind-driven idealized and large-eddy simulation (LES) models of the OSBL, this study examines the role of turbulent along-wind jets in dispersing material. In the idealized model, turbulent jets are generated by prescribed cellular flow with surface convergence and associated downwelling regions. Numeric and analytic model solutions reveal that horizontal jets substantially contribute to along-wind dispersion for sufficiently strong cellular flows and exceed contributions due to vertical mean shear for buoyant surface-trapped material. However, surface convergence regions also accumulate surface-trapped material, reducing shear dispersion by jets. Turbulence resolving LES results of a coastal depth-limited ocean agree qualitatively with the idealized model and reveal long-lived coherent jet structures that are necessary for effective jet dispersion. These coastal results indicate substantial jet contributions to along-wind dispersion. However, jet dispersion is likely less effective in the open ocean because jets are shorter lived, less organized, and distorted due to spiraling Ekman currents.

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Kaylie Cohanim, Ken X. Zhao, and Andrew L. Stewart

Abstract

Interaction between the atmosphere and ocean in sea ice–covered regions is largely concentrated in leads, which are long, narrow openings between sea ice floes. Refreezing and brine rejection in these leads inject salt that plays a key role in maintaining the polar halocline. The injected salt forms dense plumes that subsequently become baroclinically unstable, producing submesoscale eddies that facilitate horizontal spreading of the salt anomalies. However, it remains unclear which properties of the stratification and leads most strongly influence the vertical and horizontal spreading of lead-input salt anomalies. In this study, the spread of lead-injected buoyancy anomalies by mixed layer and eddy processes are investigated using a suite of idealized numerical simulations. The simulations are complemented by dynamical theories that predict the plume convection depth, horizontal eddy transfer coefficient, and eddy kinetic energy as functions of the ambient stratification and lead properties. It is shown that vertical penetration of buoyancy anomalies is accurately predicted by a mixed layer temperature and salinity budget until the onset of baroclinic instability (~3 days). Subsequently, these buoyancy anomalies are spread horizontally by eddies. The horizontal eddy diffusivity is accurately predicted by a mixing-length scaling, with a velocity scale set by the potential energy released by the sinking salt plume and a length scale set by the deformation radius of the ambient stratification. These findings indicate that the intermittent opening of leads can efficiently populate the polar halocline with submesoscale coherent vortices with diameters of ~10 km, and they provide a step toward parameterizing their effect on the horizontal redistribution of salinity anomalies.

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Shuo Li, Alexander V. Babanin, Fangli Qiao, Dejun Dai, Shumin Jiang, and Changlong Guan

Abstract

The CO2 gas transfer velocity (KCO2) at air–sea interface is usually parameterized with the wind speed, but to a great extent it is defined by waves and wave breaking. To investigate the direct relationship between KCO2 and waves, laboratory experiments are conducted in a wind-wave flume. Three types of waves are forced in the flume: modulational wave trains generated by a wave maker, wind waves with 10-m wind speed ranging from 4.5 to 15.5 m s−1, and (mechanically generated) modulational wave trains coupled with superimposed wind force. The wave height and wave orbital velocity are found to be well correlated with KCO2 whereas wind speed alone cannot adequately describe KCO2. To reconcile the measurements, nondimensional equations are established in which gas transfer velocity is expressed as a main function of wave parameters and an additional secondary factor to account for influence of the wind.

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Sydney Sroka and Kerry Emanuel

Abstract

The intensity of tropical cyclones is sensitive to the air–sea fluxes of enthalpy and momentum. Sea spray plays a critical role in mediating enthalpy and momentum fluxes over the ocean’s surface at high wind speeds, and parameterizing the influence of sea spray is a crucial component of any air–sea interaction scheme used for the high wind regime where sea spray is ubiquitous. Many studies have proposed parameterizations of air–sea flux that incorporate the microphysics of sea spray evaporation and the mechanics of sea spray stress. Unfortunately, there is not yet a consensus on which parameterization best represents air–sea exchange in tropical cyclones, and the different proposed parameterizations can yield substantially different tropical cyclone intensities. This paper seeks to review the developments in parameterizations of the sea spray–mediated enthalpy and momentum fluxes for the high wind speed regime and to synthesize key findings that are common across many investigations.

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Ratnaksha Lele, Sarah G. Purkey, Jonathan D. Nash, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Andreas M. Thurnherr, Caitlin B. Whalen, Sabine Mecking, Gunnar Voet, and Lynne D. Talley

Abstract

The abyssal Southwest Pacific Basin has warmed significantly between 1992-2017, consistent with warming along the bottom limb of the meridional overturning circulation seen throughout the global oceans. Here we present a framework for assessing the abyssal heat budget that includes the time-dependent unsteady effects of decadal warming and direct and indirect estimates of diapycnal mixing from microscale temperature measurements and finescale parameterizations. The unsteady terms estimated from the decadalwarming rate are shown to be within a factor of 3 of the steady state terms in the abyssal heat budget for the coldest portion of the water column and therefore, cannot be ignored. We show that a reduction in the lateral heat flux for the coldest temperature classes compensated by an increase in warmer waters advected into the basin has important implications for the heat balance and diffusive heat fluxes in the basin. Finally, vertical diffusive heat fluxes are estimated in different ways: using the newly available CTD-mounted microscale temperature measurements, a finescale strain parameterization, and a vertical kinetic energy parameterization from data along the P06 transect along 32.5°S. The unsteady-state abyssal heat budget for the basin shows closure within error estimates, demonstrating that (i) unsteady terms have become consequential for the heat balance in the isotherms closest to the ocean bottom and (ii) direct and indirect estimates from full depth GO-SHIP hydrographic transects averaged over similarly large spatial and temporal scales can capture the basin-averaged abyssal mixing needed to close the deep overturning circulation.

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He Wang, Julie L. McClean, and Lynne D. Talley

Abstract

The Arabian Sea, influenced by the Indian monsoon, has many unique features including its basin scale seasonally reversing surface circulation and the Great Whirl, a seasonal anti-cyclonic system appearing during the southwest monsoon close to the western boundary. To establish a comprehensive dynamical picture of the Arabian Sea, we utilize numerical model output and design a full vorticity budget that includes a fully-decomposed nonlinear term. The ocean general circulation model has 0.1° resolution and is mesoscale eddy-resolving in the region. In the western boundary current system, we highlight the role of nonlinear eddies in the life cycle of the Great Whirl. The nonlinear eddy term is of leading order importance in this feature’s vorticity balance. Specifically, it contributes to the Great Whirl’s persistence in boreal fall after the weakening of the southwesterly winds. In the open ocean, Sverdrup dynamics and annual Rossby waves are found to dominate the vorticity balance; the latter is considered as a key factor in the formation of the Great Whirl and the sea-sonal reversal of the western boundary current. In addition, we discuss different forms of vertically-integrated vorticity equations in the model and argue that the bottom pressure torque term can be interpreted analogously as friction in the western boundary and vortex stretching in the open ocean.

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Gerardo Hernández-Dueñas, M.-Pascale Lelong, and Leslie M. Smith

Abstract

Submesoscale lateral transport of Lagrangian particles in pycnocline conditions is investigated by means of idealized numerical simulations with reduced-interaction models. Using a projection technique, the models are formulated in terms of wave-mode and vortical-mode nonlinear interactions, and they range in complexity from full Boussinesq to waves-only and vortical-modes-only (QG) models. We find that, on these scales, most of the dispersion is done by vortical motions, but waves cannot be discounted because they play an important, albeit indirect, role. In particular, we show that waves are instrumental in filling out the spectra of vortical-mode energy at smaller scales through non-resonant vortex-wave-wave triad interactions. We demonstrate that a richer spectrum of vortical modes in the presence of waves enhances the effective lateral diffusivity, compared to QG. Waves also transfer energy upscale to vertically sheared horizontal flows which are a key ingredient for internal-wave shear dispersion. In the waves-only model, the dispersion rate is an order of magnitude smaller and is attributed entirely to internal-wave shear dispersion.

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Sean R. Haney, Alexandra J. Simpson, Jacqueline M. McSweeney, Amy F. Waterhouse, Merrick C. Haller, James A. Lerczak, John A. Barth, Luc Lenain, André Palóczy, Kate Adams, and Jennifer A. MacKinnon

Abstract

The ocean is home to many different submesoscale phenomena, including internal waves, fronts, and gravity currents. Each of these processes entail complex nonlinear dynamics, even in isolation. Here we present shipboard, moored, and remote observations of a submesoscale gravity current front created by a shoaling internal tidal bore in the coastal ocean. The internal bore is observed to flatten as it shoals, leaving behind a gravity current front that propagates significantly slower than the bore. We posit that the generation and separation of the front from the bore is related to particular stratification ahead of the bore, which allows the bore to reach the maximum possible internal wave speed. After the front is calved from the bore, it is observed to propagate as a gravity current for ≈4 hours, with associated elevated turbulent dissipation rates. A strong cross-shore gradient of along-shore velocity creates enhanced vertical vorticity (Rossby number ≈ 40) that remains locked with the front. Lateral shear instabilities develop along the front and may hasten its demise.

Open access
Yuan-Zheng Lu, Xian-Rong Cen, Shuang-Xi Guo, Ling Qu, Peng-Qi Huang, Xiao-Dong Shang, and Sheng-Qi Zhou

Abstract

The nominal spatial distribution of diapycnal mixing in the South China Sea (SCS) is obtained with Thorpe-scale analysis from 2004 to 2020. The inferred dissipation rate ε and diapycnal diffusivity Kz between 100 and 1500 m indicated that the strongest mixing occurred in the Luzon Strait and Dongsha Plateau regions, with ε ~ 3.0 × 10-8 W/kg (εmax = 5.3 × 10-6 W/kg) and Kz ~ 3.5 × 10-4 m2/s (Kz max = 4.2 = 10-2 m2/s). The weakest mixing occurred in the thermocline of the central basin, with ε ~ 6.2 × 10-10 W/kg and Kz ~ 3.7 × 10-6 m2/s. The ε and Kz in the continental slope indicated that the mixing in the northern part [O(10-8) W/kg, O(10-4) m2/s] was comparatively stronger than that in the Xisha and Nansha regions [O(10-9) W/kg, O(10-5) m2/s]. The Kz in the continental slope region (200–2000 m) decayed at a closed rate from the ocean bottom to the main thermocline when the measured depth D was normalized by the ocean depth H as D/H, whether in the shallow or deep oceans. The diapycnal diffusivity was parameterized as Kz = 3.3 × 10−4 (1 + 1D/H0.22)−2 − 6.0 × 10−6 m2/s. The vertically integrated energy dissipation was nominally as 15.8 mW/m2 for all data and 25.6 mW/m2 for data at stations H < 2000 m. This was about one order higher than that in the open oceans (3.0–3.3 mW/m2), which confirmed the active mixing state in the SCS.

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Yunwei Yan, Lei Zhang, Xiangzhou Song, Guihua Wang, and Changlin Chen

Abstract

Diurnal variation in surface latent heat flux (LHF) and the effects of diurnal variations in LHF-related variables on the climatological LHF are examined using observations from the Global Tropical Moored Buoy Array. The estimated amplitude of the climatological diurnal LHF over the Indo-Pacific warm pool and the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic cold tongues is remarkable, with maximum values exceeding 20.0 W m−2. Diurnal variability of sea surface skin temperature (SSTskin) is the primary contributor to the diurnal LHF amplitude. Because the diurnal SSTskin amplitude has an inverse relationship with surface wind speed over the tropical oceans, an inverse spatial pattern between the diurnal LHF amplitude and surface wind speed results. Resolving diurnal variations in the SSTskin and wind improves the estimate of the climatological LHF by properly capturing the daytime SSTskin and daily mean wind speed, respectively. The diurnal SSTskin-associated contribution is large over the warm pool and equatorial cold tongues where low wind speeds tend to cause strong diurnal SSTskin warming, while the magnitude associated with the diurnal winds is large over the highly dynamic environment of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. The total diurnal contribution is about 9.0 W m−2 on average over the buoy sites. There appears to be a power function (linear) relationship between the diurnal SSTskin-associated (wind-associated) contribution and surface mean wind speed (wind speed enhancement from diurnal variability). The total contribution from diurnal variability can be estimated accurately from high-frequency surface wind measurements using these relationships.

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