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Steven J. Lentz

Abstract

The characteristics and dynamics of depth-average along-shelf currents at monthly and longer time scales are examined using 17 years of observations from the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory on the southern New England inner shelf. Monthly averages of the depth-averaged along-shelf current are almost always westward, with the largest interannual variability in winter. There is a consistent annual cycle with westward currents of 5 cm s−1 in summer decreasing to 1–2 cm s−1 in winter. Both the annual cycle and interannual variability in the depth-average along-shelf current are predominantly driven by the along-shelf wind stress. In the absence of wind forcing, there is a westward flow of ∼5 cm s−1 throughout the year. At monthly time scales, the depth-average along-shelf momentum balance is primarily between the wind stress, surface gravity wave–enhanced bottom stress, and an opposing pressure gradient that sets up along the southern New England shelf in response to the wind. Surface gravity wave enhancement of bottom stress is substantial over the inner shelf and is essential to accurately estimating the bottom stress variation across the inner shelf.

Significance Statement

Seventeen years of observations from the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory on the inner continental shelf of southern New England reveal that the depth-average along-shelf current is almost always westward and stronger in summer than in winter. Both the annual cycle and variations around the annual cycle are primarily driven by the along-shelf wind stress. The wind stress is opposed by a pressure gradient that sets up along the southern New England shelf and a surface gravity wave–enhanced bottom stress. The surface gravity wave enhancement of bottom stress is substantial in less than 30 m of water and is essential in determining the variation of the along-shelf current across the inner shelf.

Open access
Siwei Huang
,
Xiaodong Huang
,
Wei Zhao
,
Zeyu Chang
,
Xing Xu
,
Qingxuan Yang
, and
Jiwei Tian

Abstract

Instability within internal solitary waves (ISWs), featured by temperature inversions with vertical lengths of dozens of meters and current reversals in the upper shoreward velocity layer, was observed in the northern South China Sea at a water depth of 982 m by using mooring measurements between June 2017 and May 2018. Regions of shear instability satisfying Ri < 1/4 were found within those unstable ISWs, and some large ISWs were even possibly in the breaking state, indicated by the ratio of Lx (wave width satisfying Ri < 1/4) to λη /2 (wavelength at half amplitude) larger than 0.86. Wave stability analyses revealed that the observed wave shear instability was induced by strong background current shear associated with multiscale dynamic processes, which greatly strengthened wave shear by introducing sharp perturbations to the fine-scale vertical structures of ISWs. During the observational period, wave shear instability was strong in summer (July–September) while weak in winter (January–March). Sensitivity experiments revealed that the observed shear instability was prone to be triggered within large ISWs by the background current shear and sensitive to the pycnocline depth in the background stratification. However, shear instability within ISWs was observed to be promoted during mid-January, as the near-inertial waves trapped inside an anticyclonic eddy resulted in enhanced background current shear between 150 and 300 m. This work emphasizes the notable impacts of multiscale background processes on ISWs in the oceans.

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S. J. Lentz

Abstract

A remarkably consistent Lagrangian upwelling circulation at monthly and longer time scales is observed in a 17-yr time series of current profiles in 12 m of water on the southern New England inner shelf. The upwelling circulation is strongest in summer, with a current magnitude of ∼1 cm s−1, which flushes the inner shelf in ∼2.5 days. The average winter upwelling circulation is about one-half of the average summer upwelling circulation, but with larger month-to-month variations driven, in part, by cross-shelf wind stresses. The persistent upwelling circulation is not wind-driven; it is driven by a cross-shelf buoyancy force associated with less-dense water near the coast. The cross-shelf density gradient is primarily due to temperature in summer, when strong surface heating warms shallower nearshore water more than deeper offshore water, and to salinity in winter, caused by fresher water near the coast. In the absence of turbulent stresses, the cross-shelf density gradient would be in a geostrophic, thermal-wind balance with the vertical shear in the along-shelf current. However, turbulent stresses over the inner shelf attributable to strong tidal currents and wind stress cause a partial breakdown of the thermal-wind balance that releases the buoyancy force, which drives the observed upwelling circulation. The presence of a cross-shelf density gradient has a profound impact on exchange across this inner shelf. Many inner shelves are characterized by turbulent stresses and cross-shelf density gradients with lighter water near the coast, suggesting turbulent thermal-wind-driven coastal upwelling may be a broadly important cross-shelf exchange mechanism.

Significance Statement

A remarkably consistent upwelling circulation at monthly time scales is observed in a 17-yr time series of current profiles in shallow water off southern New England. This is not the traditional wind-driven coastal upwelling; instead, it is forced by cross-shelf buoyancy (density) gradients, released by turbulent stresses in shallow water. The persistent upwelling circulation is strongest in summer, when wind and wave forcing are weak, and flushes the inner portion of the continental shelf in a few days. Consequently, this buoyancy-driven coastal upwelling is important for cooling the inner shelf and provides a reliable mechanism for cross-shelf exchange. Many inner shelves are characterized by cross-shelf density gradients and turbulent stresses, suggesting this may be a broadly important cross-shelf exchange mechanism.

Open access
Lixin Qu
,
Leif N. Thomas
,
Robert D. Hetland
, and
Daijiro Kobashi

Abstract

Studies of internal wave-driven mixing in the coastal ocean have been focused on internal tides, while wind-driven near-inertial waves (NIWs) have received less attention in this regard. This study demonstrates a scenario of NIW-driven mixing over the Texas–Louisiana shelf. Supported by a high-resolution simulation over the shelf, the NIWs driven by land–sea breeze radiate downward at a sharp front and enhance the mixing in the bottom boundary layer where the NIWs are focused because of slantwise critical reflection. The criterion for slantwise critical reflection of NIWs is ω = f 2 + s bot 2 N 2 ( 1 s ρ / s bot ) (where ω is the wave frequency, s bot is the bottom slope, and sρ is the isopycnal slope), under the assumption that the mean flow is in a thermal wind balance and only varies in the slope-normal direction. The mechanism driving the enhanced mixing is explored in an idealized simulation. During slantwise critical reflection, NIWs are amplified with enhanced shear and periodically destratify a bottom boundary layer via differential buoyancy advection, leading to periodically enhanced mixing. Turbulent transport of tracers is also enhanced during slantwise critical reflection of NIWs, which has implications for bottom hypoxia over the Texas–Louisiana shelf.

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Hua Zheng
,
Xiao-Hua Zhu
,
Juntian Chen
,
Min Wang
,
Ruixiang Zhao
,
Chuanzheng Zhang
,
Ze-Nan Zhu
,
Qiang Ren
,
Yansong Liu
,
Feng Nan
, and
Fei Yu

Abstract

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) play an important role in deep-ocean dynamics and abyssal intraseasonal variations. Observational records from 15 current- and pressure-recording inverted echo sounders (CPIESs) and two moorings deployed in the northern Manila Trench (MT), South China Sea (SCS), for over 400 days were utilized to analyze the widely existing near-21-day bottom-trapped TRWs in the trench. The TRWs were generally generated in winter and summer, dominated by perturbations in the upper ocean. Kuroshio intrusion and its related variabilities contributed to the perturbations in winter, whereas the perturbations generated north of Luzon Island dominated in summer. Eddies north of Luzon propagated northwestward in the summer of 2018; however, these eddies caused the Kuroshio meanderings in the Luzon Strait (LS) in the summer of 2019. The variations in the Kuroshio path and the Kuroshio-related eddies induced TRWs in the deep ocean in regions with steep topography. However, the spatiotemporal distributions of TRWs were complex owing to the propagation of the waves. Some cases of TRWs showed no relation to the local upper-layer perturbations but propagated from adjacent regions. Some of these TRWs were induced by perturbations in the upper ocean in adjacent regions, and propagated anticlockwise in the MT with shallow water to their right, while others may be related to the intraseasonal variations in deep-water overflow in the LS and propagated northward. This study suggests that the Kuroshio and Kuroshio-related eddies significantly contribute to the dynamic processes associated with intraseasonal variations in the deep SCS through the generation of TRWs.

Significance Statement

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) are fluctuations generated when water columns travel across sloping topography under potential vorticity conservation. Based on observations of 15 current- and pressure-recording inverted echo sounders (CPIESs) and two moorings in the northern Manila Trench (MT) in the South China Sea (SCS), TRWs with periods of approximately 21 days were observed and analyzed. This study describes the generation, propagation, and spatiotemporal distribution of TRWs west of the LS and confirms that regional Kuroshio meanderings and upper eddies play important roles in the dynamic processes associated with intraseasonal variations in the deep SCS; the study may thus contribute to knowledge on the dynamic response of the abyssal current to mesoscale perturbations in the upper ocean.

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Zhi Li
,
Sjoerd Groeskamp
,
Ivana Cerovečki
, and
Matthew H. England

Abstract

Using observationally based hydrographic and eddy diffusivity datasets, a volume budget analysis is performed to identify the main mechanisms governing the spatial and seasonal variability of Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) within the density range γn = (27.25–27.7) kg m−3 in the Southern Ocean. The subduction rates and water mass transformation rates by mesoscale and small-scale turbulent mixing are estimated. First, Ekman pumping upwells the dense variety of AAIW into the mixed layer south of the Polar Front, which can be advected northward by Ekman transport into the subduction regions of lighter-variety AAIW and Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW). The subduction of light AAIW occurs mainly by lateral advection in the southeast Pacific and Drake Passage as well as eddy-induced flow between the Subantarctic and Polar Fronts. The circumpolar-integrated total subduction yields from −5 to 19 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) of AAIW volume loss. Second, the diapycnal transport from subducted SAMW into the AAIW layer is predominantly by mesoscale mixing (2–13 Sv) near the Subantarctic Front and vertical mixing in the South Pacific, while AAIW is further replenished by transformation from Upper Circumpolar Deep Water by vertical mixing (1–10 Sv). Last, 3–14 Sv of AAIW are exported out of the Southern Ocean. Our results suggest that the distribution of AAIW is set by its formation due to subduction and mixing, and its circulation eastward along the ACC and northward into the subtropical gyres. The volume budget analysis reveals strong seasonal variability in the rate of subduction, vertical mixing, and volume transport driving volume change within the AAIW layer. The nonzero volume budget residual suggests that more observations are needed to better constrain the estimate of geostrophic flow and mesoscale and small-scale mixing diffusivities.

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B. Dzwonkowski
,
S. Fournier
,
G. Lockridge
,
J. Coogan
,
Z. Liu
, and
K. Park

Abstract

Prediction of rapid intensification in tropical cyclones prior to landfall is a major societal issue. While air–sea interactions are clearly linked to storm intensity, the connections between the underlying thermal conditions over continental shelves and rapid intensification are limited. Here, an exceptional set of in situ and satellite data are used to identify spatial heterogeneity in sea surface temperatures across the inner core of Hurricane Sally (2020), a storm that rapidly intensified over the shelf. A leftward shift in the region of maximum cooling was observed as the hurricane transited from the open gulf to the shelf. This shift was generated, in part, by the surface heat flux in conjunction with the along- and across-shelf transport of heat from storm-generated coastal circulation. The spatial differences in the sea surface temperatures were large enough to potentially influence rapid intensification processes suggesting that coastal thermal features need to be accounted for to improve storm forecasting as well as to better understand how climate change will modify interactions between tropical cyclones and the coastal ocean.

Significance Statement

The connections between the underlying thermal energy in the ocean that powers tropical cyclones and rapid intensification of storms over continental shelves are limited. An exceptional set of data collected in the field as well as from space with satellites was used to identify spatial variations in sea surface temperatures across the inner core of Hurricane Sally (2020), a storm that rapidly intensified over the shelf. The spatial differences were due to the heat loss from the surface of the ocean as well as heat transport by shelf currents. The spatial differences were large enough to potentially influence how quickly storms can intensify, suggesting that coastal thermal features need to be accounted for to improve storm forecasting.

Open access
Yifan Xia
and
Yan Du

Abstract

In this study, the upper-ocean absolute geostrophic currents in the southern Indian Ocean are constructed using Argo temperature and salinity data from the middepth (1000 m) zonal velocity derived from the Argo float trajectory. The results reveal alternating quasi-zonal striation-like structures of middepth zonal velocity in the equatorial and southern tropical Indian Ocean. Specifically, the eastward time-mean flows are located at the equator and 2°, 5°, 8°, 13°, 16°, 18°–19°, and 21°–22°S, with a meridional scale of ∼300 km. The generation mechanisms of the striation-like zonal velocity structure differ between the near-equatorial and off-equatorial regions. The triad of baroclinic Rossby wave instability plays a significant role in near-equatorial striations. In the south, the high potential vorticity (PV) of Antarctic intermediate water and low PV of southern Indian Ocean Subantarctic Mode Water lead to strong baroclinic instability, which increases the eddy kinetic energy in the middepth layer, thus contributing to a turbulent PV gradient. The convergence/divergence of the eddy PV flux generates the quasi-zonal striations. The meridional scale of the striations is controlled by the most unstable wavelength of baroclinic instability, which explains the observations.

Significance Statement

The middepth zonal velocity resembles a system of eastward/westward jets with a considerably smaller width than the larger-scale ocean surface circulation. Such a phenomenon always occurs in a turbulent ocean that presents eddy or eddy–mean flow interactions. This study used float observations to reveal a robust middepth zonal velocity in the southern tropical Indian Ocean, where the width of the eastward time-mean flows is approximately 300 km. Smaller eddies drive the zonal currents with a smaller width, and the energy of the eddies is released from the unstable vertical structure at middepths. This study provides new insights into the generation mechanism of small-width zonal current structures in the deep ocean.

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Nicholas K.-R. Kevlahan
and
Francis J. Poulin

Abstract

The dynamically adaptive WAVETRISK-OCEAN global model is used to solve one- and two-layer shallow water ocean models of wind-driven western boundary current (WBC) turbulence. When the submesoscale is resolved, both the one-layer simulation and the barotropic mode of the two-layer simulations have an energy spectrum with a power law of −3, while the baroclinic mode has a power law of −5/3 to −2 for a Munk boundary layer. This is consistent with the theoretical prediction for the power laws of the barotropic and baroclinic (buoyancy variance) cascades in surface quasigeostrophic turbulence. The baroclinic mode has about 20% of the energy of the barotropic mode in this case. When a Munk–Stommel boundary layer dominates, both the baroclinic and barotropic modes have a power law of −3. Local energy spectrum analysis reveals that the midlatitude and equatorial jets have different energy spectra and contribute differently to the global energy spectrum. We have therefore shown that adding a single baroclinic mode qualitatively changes WBC turbulence, introducing an energy spectrum component typical of what occurs in stratified three-dimensional ocean flows. This suggests that the first baroclinic mode may be primarily responsible for the submesoscale turbulence energy spectrum of the oceans. Adding more vertical layers, and therefore more baroclinic modes, could strengthen the first baroclinic mode, producing a dual cascade spectrum (−5/3, −3) or (−3, −5/3) similar to that predicted by quasigeostrophic and surface quasigeostrophic models, respectively.

Significance Statement

This research investigates how wind energy is transferred from the largest ocean scales (thousands of kilometers) to the small turbulence scales (a few kilometers or less). We do this by using an idealized model that includes the simplest representation of density stratification. Our main finding is that this simple model captures an essential feature of the energy transfer process. Future work will compare our results to those obtained using ocean models with more realistic stratifications.

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Yuan-Zheng Lu
,
Shuang-Xi Guo
,
Sheng-Qi Zhou
,
Xue-Long Song
, and
Peng-Qi Huang

Abstract

Thirty-four individual thermohaline sheets are identified at depths of 170–400 m in the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean by using the hydrographical data measured with the Ice-Tethered Profilers (ITPs) between August 2005 and October 2009. Each sheet is well determined because the salinity within itself remains very stable and the associated salinity anomaly is markedly smaller than the salinity jump between neighboring sheets. These thermohaline sheets are nested between the Lower Halocline Water (LHW) and Atlantic Water (AW) with lateral coherence of hundreds of kilometers and thickness varying from several to dozens of meters. The physical properties, including temperature, heat flux, and vertical turbulent diffusivity, in the sheet are found to be averagely associated with the AW propagation. Spatially, the thermohaline sheet is in a bowl-shaped distribution, which is deepest in the basin center and gradually becomes shallower toward the periphery. The interaction between the LHW and AW could be demonstrated through the property variances in the sheets. The temperature variances in the upper and lower sheets are correlated with the LHW and AW, respectively, transited at the 15th sheet, whereas the depth variance in the sheet is strongly correlated with the LHW. It is proposed that the sheet spatial distribution is mainly dominated by the Ekman convergence with the Beaufort Gyre, slightly modulated with the AW intrusion.

Significance Statement

The diffusive convection staircases, composed of consecutive steps containing thick mixed layers and relatively thin interfaces, are prominent between the Lower Halocline Water (LHW) and the Atlantic Water (AW) throughout the Canada Basin. This sheet-like structure is in a bowl shape with lateral coherence over hundreds of kilometers. It is proposed that the distribution of the thermohaline sheet is mainly dominated by the Ekman convergence with Beaufort Gyre, as well as the AW intrusion. The present method of thermohaline-sheet identification would have more implications beyond this work. Since the thermohaline sheet remains mostly stable and coherent on a very large spatial–temporal scale, it might play a similar role as the water mass analysis in numerous applications, e.g., climate change.

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