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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.

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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 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
Kunxiang Wang
,
Dongliang Yuan
, and
Kaixin Ren

Abstract

The seasonal and interannual variations of the Mindanao Current (MC) retroflection are studied using surface geostrophic currents of satellite altimeters covering January 1993–December 2019. The results show that the Mindanao Current mainstream retroflects back to the Pacific Ocean north of the Talaud Islands in boreal summer and intrudes into the northern Maluku Sea in boreal winter. The variation of the MC 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 it 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.

Significance Statement

The Mindanao Current is the western boundary current (WBC) of the North Pacific Ocean tropical gyre and is much stronger than the ocean interior gyre circulation. This equatorward WBC forces strong exchanges between the equatorial Pacific and the marginal seas as it turns eastward at the entrance of the Indonesian seas. The path of the Mindanao Current retroflection is very important for Rossby wave reflection and for Indo-Pacific interbasin exchange leading to global repercussions, both of which are thought to be controlled by linear dynamics in the past. Here, we disclose the seasonal and interannual movement of the retroflection path, showing strong nonlinear dynamics important for ENSO and interocean exchange.

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Pablo Sebastia Saez
,
Carsten Eden
, and
Manita Chouksey

Abstract

We investigate the effect of wave–eddy interaction and dissipation of internal gravity waves propagating in a coherent mesoscale eddy simulated using a novel numerical model called the Internal Wave Energy Model based on the six-dimensional radiative transfer equation. We use an idealized mean flow structure and stratification, motivated by observations of a coherent eddy in the Canary Current System. In a spindown simulation using the Garret–Munk model spectrum as initial conditions, we find that wave energy decreases at the eddy rim. Lateral shear leads to wave energy gain due to a developing horizontal anisotropy outside the eddy and at the rim, while vertical shear leads to wave energy loss which is enhanced at the eddy rim. Wave energy loss by wave dissipation due to vertical shear dominates over horizontal shear. Our results show similar behavior of the internal gravity wave in a cyclonic as well as an anticyclonic eddy. Wave dissipation by vertical wave refraction occurs predominantly at the eddy rim near the surface, where related vertical diffusivities range from O ( 10 7 ) to O ( 10 5 ) m 2 s 1 .

Significance Statement

Using a novel model and observations from the Canary Current System of a coherent eddy of 100-km diameter, we explore the interaction between a realistic internal gravity wave field and this eddy. We study wave refraction and energy transfers between the waves and the eddy induced by the eddy’s lateral and vertical shear. Waves lose energy at the eddy rim by vertical shear and gain outside of the eddy rim by horizontal shear. We find large vertical wave refraction by vertical shear at the eddy rim, where waves break and mix density, which can have wide ranging effects on the ocean’s circulation. These results are important for understanding the ocean’s mixing and energy cycle and to develop eddy and wave parameterizations.

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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 of the 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.

Significance Statement

Near-inertial internal waves (NIWs) are ubiquitous phenomena in stratified water, which can significantly influence the ocean mixing, especially across the thermocline. NIWs are generated mainly by wind forcing near the sea surface, but also by internal tide breaking in the ocean interior. Hence, a question that arises is whether winds or tides play dominant roles in generating NIWs. In fact, due to the interaction between wind- and tide-induced NIWs, the total near-inertial kinetic energy (NIKE) is not merely a linear superposition of that generated by winds and tides forcing alone. By carrying out numerical experiments, we find that extreme winds can help to transfer more energy from tides to NIWs, while tides would suppress energy transferring from winds to NIWs. As a result, this fact is crucial in accurately reproducing NIW dynamics in a targeted region, thereby determining redistribution of local ocean mixing intensity.

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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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Margaret M. Conley
and
James A. Lerczak

Abstract

Despite its relatively small magnitude, cross-channel circulation in estuaries can influence the along-channel momentum balance, dispersion, and transport. We investigate spatial and temporal variation in cross-channel circulation at two contrasting sites in the Hudson River estuary. The two sites differ in the relative strength and direction of Coriolis and curvature forcing. We contrast the patterns and magnitudes of flow at the two sites during varying conditions in stratification driven by tidal amplitude and river discharge. We found well-defined flows during flood tides at both sites, characterized by mainly two-layer structures when the water column was more homogeneous and structures with three or more layers when the water column was more stratified. Ebb tides had generally weaker and less definite flows, except at one site where curvature and Coriolis reinforced each other during spring tide ebbs. Cross-channel currents had similar patterns, but were oppositely directed at the two sites, demonstrating the importance of curvature even in channels with relatively gradual curves. Coriolis and curvature dominated the measured terms in the cross-channel momentum balance. Their combination was generally consistent with driving the observed patterns and directions of flow, but local acceleration and cross-channel advection made some notable contributions. A large residual in the momentum balance indicates that some combination of vertical stress divergence, baroclinic pressure gradients, and along-channel and vertical advection must play an essential role, but data limitations prevented an accurate estimation of these terms. Cross-channel advection affected the along-channel momentum balance at times, with implications for the exchange flow’s strength.

Significance Statement

Currents that flow across the channel in an estuary move slower than those flowing along the channel, but they can transport materials and change water properties in important ways, affecting human uses of estuaries such as shipping, aquaculture, and recreation. We wanted to better understand cross-channel currents in the Hudson River estuary. We found that larger tides produced the strongest cross-channel currents with a two-layer pattern, compared to weaker currents with three layers during smaller tides. Higher or lower river flow also affected current strength. Comparing two locations, we saw cross-channel currents moving in opposite directions because of differences in the curvature of the river channel. Our results show how channel curvature and Earth’s rotation combine to produce cross-channel currents.

Open access
Ian A. Stokes
,
Samuel M. Kelly
,
Andrew J. Lucas
,
Amy F. Waterhouse
,
Caitlin B. Whalen
,
Thilo Klenz
,
Verena Hormann
, and
Luca Centurioni

Abstract

We construct a generalized slab model to calculate the ocean’s linear response to an arbitrary, depth-variable forcing stress profile. To introduce a first-order improvement to the linear stress profile of the traditional slab model, a nonlinear stress profile, which allows momentum to penetrate into the transition layer (TL), is used [denoted mixed layer/transition layer (MLTL) stress profile]. The MLTL stress profile induces a twofold reduction in power input to inertial motions relative to the traditional slab approximation. The primary reduction arises as the TL allows momentum to be deposited over a greater depth range, reducing surface currents. The secondary reduction results from the production of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) beneath the mixed layer (ML) related to interactions between shear stress and velocity shear. Direct comparison between observations in the Iceland Basin, the traditional slab model, the generalized slab model with the MLTL stress profile, and the Price–Weller–Pinkel (PWP) model suggest that the generalized slab model offers improved performance over a traditional slab model. In the Iceland Basin, modeled TKE production in the TL is consistent with observations of turbulent dissipation. Extension to global results via analysis of Argo profiling float data suggests that on the global, annual mean, ∼30% of the total power input to near-inertial motions is allocated to TKE production. We apply this result to the latest global, annual-mean estimates for near-inertial power input (0.27 TW) to estimate that 0.08 ± 0.01 TW of the total near-inertial power input are diverted to TKE production.

Open access
Yuyi Liu
and
Zhiyou Jing

Abstract

Intrathermocline eddies (ITEs), characterized by subsurface lens-shaped low potential vorticity (PV), are pervasive in the ocean. However, the abundance and generation mechanisms of these low-PV lenses are poorly understood owing to their weak surface signals and awkward sizes, which present an observational barrier. Using in situ observations of the northern South China Sea (NSCS), a typical ITE with a lens-shaped low PV at a core depth of 30–150 m and a horizontal size of ∼150 km was captured in May 2021. Combined with PV budget analysis, we investigate the underlying generation mechanism of low PVs within these ITEs using high-resolution reanalysis products. The results suggest that wintertime surface buoyancy loss driven by atmospheric diabatic forcing rather than frictional forcing is a crucial favorable condition for the ITE formation. These enhanced surface buoyancy losses produce a net upward PV flux and decrease PV in the weakly stratified and deep winter mixed layer, which are preconditioned by anticyclonic eddies (AEs). While surface heating in the following spring tends to weaken the surface buoyancy loss and gradually causes a downward PV flux, the surface-injected high PV subsequently caps the low-PV water within the surface-intensified AEs and transforms them into ITEs. Approximately 22% of the 58 AEs detected by satellite altimetry in the NSCS are ITEs. More importantly, the lens-shaped low PVs within them are produced primarily by the enhanced surface buoyancy loss during wintertime. These findings provide a new dynamic explanation for the low-PV generation in ITEs, highlighting the crucial role of atmospheric diabatic forcing.

Significance Statement

Intrathermocline eddies (ITEs), characterized by a lens-like isopycnal structure that bounds low potential vorticity (PV), are active in the oceanic interior. Although a few previous studies revealed the existence of ITEs in the South China Sea, the source and dynamic generation mechanisms of the lens-shaped low PV still remain elusive. We find that the enhanced surface buoyancy loss due to atmospheric diabatic forcing drives an upward surface PV flux and is identified to produce the low PV. The preexisting anticyclonic eddy, combined with seasonal surface heating in spring, can be easily transformed into the ITE. This study provides a new dynamic understanding for the generation mechanism of ITEs’ low PVs and highlights the contribution of atmospheric diabatic forcing.

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Fu Liu
,
Ralf Toumi
,
Han Zhang
, and
Dake Chen

Abstract

Precipitation plays a crucial role in modulating upper-ocean salinity and the formation of the barrier layer, which affects the development of tropical cyclones (TCs). This study performed idealized simulations to investigate the influence of precipitation on the upper ocean. Precipitation acts to suppress the wind-induced sea surface reduction and generates an asymmetric warming response with a rightward bias. There is substantial vertical change with a cooling anomaly in the subsurface, which is about 3 times larger than the surface warming. The mean tropical cyclone heat potential is locally increased, but the net effect across the cyclone footprint is small. The impact of precipitation on the ocean tends to saturate for extreme precipitation, suggesting a nonlinear feedback. A prevailing driver of the model behavior is that the freshwater flux from precipitation strengthens the stratification and increases current shear in the upper ocean, trapping more kinetic energy in the surface layer and subsequently weakening near-inertial waves in the deep ocean. This study highlights the competing roles of TC precipitation and wind. Because the TC category is weaker than category 3, the warming anomaly is caused by reduced vertical mixing, whereas for stronger storms, the advection process is most important.

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