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Henry Potter and Johna E. Rudzin

Abstract

Strong winds in tropical cyclones (TCs) mix the ocean causing cooler water from below the thermocline to be drawn upward, reducing sea surface temperature (SST). This decreases the air-sea temperature difference, limits available heat energy, and impacts TC intensity. Part of TC forecast accuracy therefore depends upon the ability to predict sea surface cooling, however, it is not well understood how underlying ocean conditions contribute to this cooling. Here, ~4400 Argo profiles in the Gulf of Mexico were used in a principle component analysis to identify the modes of variability in upper ocean temperature and a 1-D mixed layer model was used to determine how the modes respond to surface forcing. It was found that the first two modes explain 75% of the variance in the data with high Mode 1 scores being broadly characterized as having warm SST and deep mixed layer, and Mode 2 as having high SST and a shallow mixed layer. Both modes have distinct seasonal and spatial variability. When subjected to the same model forcing, Mode 1 and Mode 2 characteristic waters with equal tropical cyclone heat potential (TCHP) respond very differently. Mode 2 SST cools faster than Mode 1 with the difference most pronounced at lower wind speeds and when comparing early to late season storms. The results show that using TCHP as a marker for SST response during TC forcing is insufficient because it does not fully capture subsurface ocean thermal structure. This underscores the need for continual subsurface monitoring in order to accurately initialize the upper ocean in coupled TC models.

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Alexis K. Kaminski, Eric A. D’Asaro, Andrey Y. Shcherbina, and Ramsey R. Harcourt

Abstract

Acrucial region of the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) is the strongly-sheared and -stratified transition layer (TL) separating the mixed layer from the upper pycnocline, where a diverse range of waves and instabilities are possible. Previous work suggests that these different waves and instabilities will lead to different OSBL behaviours. Therefore, understanding which physical processes occur is key for modelling the TL. Here we present observations of the TL from a Lagrangian float deployed for 73 days near Ocean Weather Station Papa (50°N, 145°W) during Fall 2018. The float followed the vertical motion of the TL, continuously measuring profiles across it using an ADCP, temperature chain and salinity sensors. The temperature chain made depth/time images of TL structures with a resolution of 6cm and 3 seconds. These showed the frequent occurrence of very sharp interfaces, dominated by temperature jumps of O(1)°C over 6cm or less. Temperature inversions were typically small (≲ 10cm), frequent, and strongly-stratified; very few large overturns were observed. The corresponding velocity profiles varied over larger length scales than the temperature profiles. These structures are consistent with scouring behaviour rather than Kelvin-Helmholtz-type overturning. Their net effect, estimated via a Thorpe-scale analysis, suggests that these frequent small temperature inversions can account for the observed mixed layer deepening and entrainment flux. Corresponding estimates of dissipation, diffusivity, and heat fluxes also agree with previous TL studies, suggesting that the TL dynamics is dominated by these nearly continuous 10cm-scale mixing structures, rather than by less frequent larger overturns.

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Xiaodong Wu, Falk Feddersen, and Sarah N. Giddings

Abstract

Rip currents are generated by surfzone wave breaking and are ejected offshore, inducing inner-shelf flow spatial variability (eddies). However, surfzone effects on the inner-shelf flow spatial variability have not been studied in realistic models that include both shelf and surfzone processes. Here, these effects are diagnosed with two nearly identical twin realistic simulations of the San Diego Bight over summer to fall, where one simulation includes surface gravity waves (WW) and the other does not (NW). The simulations include tides, weak to moderate winds, internal waves, and submesoscale processes and have surfzone width L sz of 96 (±41) m (≈1 m significant wave height). Flow spatial variability metrics, alongshore root-mean-square vorticity, divergence, and eddy cross-shore velocity are analyzed in an L sz normalized cross-shore coordinate. At the surface, the metrics are consistently (>70%) elevated in the WW run relative to NW out to 5L sz offshore. At 4L sz offshore, WW metrics are enhanced over the entire water column. In a fixed coordinate appropriate for eddy transport, the eddy cross-shore velocity squared correlation between WW and NW runs is <0.5 out to 1.2 km offshore or 12 time-averaged L sz. The results indicate that the eddy tracer (e.g., larvae) transport and dispersion across the inner shelf will be significantly different in the WW and NW runs. The WW model neglects specific surfzone vorticity generation mechanisms. Thus, these inner-shelf impacts are likely underestimated. In other regions with larger waves, impacts will extend farther offshore.

Open access
Callum J. Shakespeare, Brian K. Arbic, and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Internal waves generated at the seafloor propagate through the interior of the ocean, driving mixing where they break and dissipate. However, existing theories only describe these waves in two limiting cases. In one limit, the presence of an upper boundary permits bottom-generated waves to reflect from the ocean surface back to the seafloor, and all the energy flux is at discrete wavenumbers corresponding to resonant modes. In the other limit, waves are strongly dissipated such that they do not interact with the upper boundary and the energy flux is continuous over wavenumber. Here, a novel linear theory is developed for internal tides and lee waves that spans the parameter space in between these two limits. The linear theory is compared with a set of numerical simulations of internal tide and lee wave generation at realistic abyssal hill topography. The linear theory is able to replicate the spatially averaged kinetic energy and dissipation of even highly nonlinear wave fields in the numerical simulations via an appropriate choice of the linear dissipation operator, which represents turbulent wave breaking processes.

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Yue Bai, Yan Wang, and Andrew L. Stewart

Abstract

Topographic form stress (TFS) plays a central role in constraining the transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), and thus the rate of exchange between the major ocean basins. Topographic form stress generation in the ACC has been linked to the formation of standing Rossby waves, which occur because the current is retrograde (opposing the direction of Rossby wave propagation). However, it is unclear whether TFS similarly retards current systems that are prograde (in the direction of Rossby wave propagation), which cannot arrest Rossby waves. An isopycnal model is used to investigate the momentum balance of wind-driven prograde and retrograde flows in a zonal channel, with bathymetry consisting of either a single ridge or a continental shelf and slope with a meridional excursion. Consistent with previous studies, retrograde flows are almost entirely impeded by TFS, except in the limit of flat bathymetry, whereas prograde flows are typically impeded by a combination of TFS and bottom friction. A barotropic theory for standing waves shows that bottom friction serves to shift the phase of the standing wave’s pressure field from that of the bathymetry, which is necessary to produce TFS. The mechanism is the same in prograde and retrograde flows, but is most efficient when the mean flow arrests a Rossby wave with a wavelength comparable to that of the bathymetry. The asymmetry between prograde and retrograde momentum balances implies that prograde current systems may be more sensitive to changes in wind forcing, for example associated with climate shifts.

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Michael A. Spall

Abstract

The frequency and latitudinal dependence of the midlatitude wind-driven meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is studied using theory and linear and nonlinear applications of a quasigeostrophic numerical model. Wind forcing is varied either by changing the strength of the wind or by shifting the meridional location of the wind stress curl pattern. At forcing periods of less than the first-mode baroclinic Rossby wave basin crossing time scale, the linear response in the middepth and deep ocean is in phase and opposite to the Ekman transport. For forcing periods that are close to the Rossby wave basin crossing time scale, the upper and deep MOC are enhanced, and the middepth MOC becomes phase shifted, relative to the Ekman transport. At longer forcing periods the deep MOC weakens and the middepth MOC increases, but eventually for long enough forcing periods (decadal) the entire wind-driven MOC spins down. Nonlinearities and mesoscale eddies are found to be important in two ways. First, baroclinic instability causes the middepth MOC to weaken, lose correlation with the Ekman transport, and lose correlation with the MOC in the opposite gyre. Second, eddy thickness fluxes extend the MOC beyond the latitudes of direct wind forcing. These results are consistent with several recent studies describing the four-dimensional structure of the MOC in the North Atlantic Ocean.

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Varvara E. Zemskova and Nicolas Grisouard

Abstract

Linear theory for steady stratified flow over topography sets the range for topographic wavenumbers over which freely propagating internal waves are generated, and the radiation and breaking of these waves contribute to energy dissipation away from the ocean bottom. However, previous numerical work demonstrated that dissipation rates can be enhanced by flow over large-scale topographies with wavenumbers outside of the lee wave radiative range. We conduct idealized 3D numerical simulations of steady stratified flow over 1D topography in a rotating domain and quantify vertical distribution of kinetic energy dissipation. We vary two parameters: the first determines whether the topographic obstacle is within the lee wave radiative range and the second, proportional to the topographic height, measures the degree of flow nonlinearity. For certain combinations of topographic width and height, breaking occurs in pulses every inertial period, such that kinetic energy dissipation develops inertial periodicity. In these simulations, kinetic energy dissipation rates are also enhanced in the interior of the domain. In the radiative regime the inertial motions arise due to resonant wave–wave interactions. In the small wavenumber nonradiative regime, instabilities downstream of the obstacle can facilitate the generation and propagation of nonlinearly forced inertial motions, especially as topographic height increase. In our simulations, dissipation rates for tall and wide nonradiative topography are comparable to those of radiative topography, even away from the bottom, which is relevant to the ocean where the topographic spectrum is such that wider abyssal hills also tend to be taller.

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Irina I. Rypina, Timothy R. Getscher, Lawrence J. Pratt, and Baptiste Mourre

Abstract

This paper presents analyses of drifters with drogues at different depths—1, 10, 30, and 50 m—that were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea to investigate frontal subduction and upwelling. Drifter trajectories were used to estimate divergence, vorticity, vertical velocity, and finite-size Lyapunov exponents (FTLEs) and to investigate the balance of terms in the vorticity equation. The divergence and vorticity are O(f) and change sign along trajectories. Vertical velocity is O(1 mm s−1), increases with depth, indicates predominant upwelling with isolated downwelling events, and sometimes changes sign between 1 and 50 m. Vortex stretching is one of the significant terms, but not the only one, in the vorticity balance. Two-dimensional FTLEs are 2 × 10−5 s−1 after 1 day, 2 times as large as in a 400-m-resolution numerical model. Three-dimensional FTLEs are 50% larger than 2D FTLEs and are dominated by the vertical shear of horizontal velocity. Bootstrapping suggests uncertainty levels of ~10% of the time-mean absolute values for divergence and vorticity. Analysis of simulated drifters in a model suggests that drifter-based estimates of divergence and vorticity are close to the Eulerian model estimates, except when drifters get aligned into long filaments. Drifter-based vertical velocity is close to the Eulerian model estimates at 1 m but differs at deeper depths. The errors in the vertical velocity are largely due to the lateral separation between drifters at different depths and are partially due to only measuring at four depths. Overall, this paper demonstrates how drifters, heretofore restricted to 2D near-surface observations, can be used to learn about 3D flow properties throughout the upper layer of the water column.

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Xiaolin Bai, Kevin G. Lamb, Jianyu Hu, and Zhiyu Liu

Abstract

Internal solitary-like waves (ISWs) evolve considerably when passing through a critical point separating the deep water where ISWs are waves of depression and shallower water where they are waves of elevation. The location of the critical point is determined by the background current and stratification. In this study, we investigate the influence of tidal currents on the cross-shelf movement of the critical point and elucidate the underlying processes via fully nonlinear numerical simulations. Our simulations reveal phase-locked tidal variations of the critical point, which are mainly attributed to stratification fluctuations that are modulated by the combined effects of cross-shelf barotropic tidal currents and locally generated baroclinic tides. The barotropic tidal currents drive isopycnal displacements as they flow over the slope, and as this occurs baroclinic tides are generated, modulating the stratification and inducing sheared currents. This results in a cross-shelf movement of the critical point, which moves onshore (offshore) when the pycnocline is elevated (depressed) by the flood (ebb) tide. Our idealized numerical simulations for the study region in the South China Sea suggest that the cross-shelf movement of the critical point reaches to O(10) km within a tidal cycle. This distance depends on the strength of tidal currents, stratification, and bathymetry. Because of tidal currents, ISWs of depression may undergo a complex evolution even in a stratification with a shallow pycnocline. For the stratification with a deep pycnocline, the critical point may be at a location deep enough so that its tidal movement becomes insignificant.

Open access
Johannes Becherer, James N. Moum, Joseph Calantoni, John A. Colosi, John A. Barth, James A. Lerczak, Jacqueline M. McSweeney, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, and Amy F. Waterhouse

Abstract

Broadly distributed measurements of velocity, density, and turbulence spanning the inner shelf off central California indicate that (i) the average shoreward-directed internal tide energy flux FE decreases to near 0 at the 25-m isobath; (ii) the vertically integrated turbulence dissipation rate D is approximately equal to the flux divergence of internal tide energy xFE; (iii) the ratio of turbulence energy dissipation in the interior relative to the bottom boundary layer (BBL) decreases toward shallow waters; (iv) going inshore, FE becomes decorrelated with the incoming internal wave energy flux; and (v) FE becomes increasingly correlated with stratification toward shallower water.

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