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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 Ferrari and Polzin (2005). The approach provides a novel framework to evaluate the approximate representation of mesoscale stirring in a variety of models.

Open 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
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
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
Luigi Cavaleri
,
Sabique Langodan
,
Paolo Pezzutto
, and
Alvise Benetazzo

Abstract

We have explored the earliest stages of wind wave generation in the open sea, from the first initial wavelets appearing on an otherwise flat surface or low, smooth undulations until the practically fully developed conditions for the very low range of wind speeds we have considered. We suggest the minimal wind speed for the appearance of the first wavelets to be close to 1.8 m s−1. The peculiar conditions associated with the development of coastal sea breezes allow us to consider the local waves as generated under time-limited conditions. The 2D spectra measured during these very early stages provide the first evidence of an active Phillips process generation in the field. After appearing in these very early stages, wavelets quickly disappear as soon as the developing wind waves take a leading role. We suggest that this process is due to the strong spatial gradients in the surface orbital velocity, which impedes the instability mechanism at the base of their formation, while at a later stage of development, these gradients decrease and wavelets reappear. On a decadal perspective, the progressive decrease of the intensity of the sea breezes in the northern Adriatic Sea, where we have carried out our measurements, is associated with the steadily milder winters, and therefore not sufficiently cold local sea temperatures in early summer.

Significance Statement

We have explored for the first time the earliest stages of wind wave generation (millimeter scale) in the open sea. This was possible with the combination of the daily sea breeze development and the availability of an oceanographic tower 15 km offshore. The minimum wind speed for wave generation was 1.8 m s−1, lower than previously assumed. The data provide strong indications on the different stages of the generation process, offering measured and visual evidence, under these very light wind conditions, of the Phillips one. The presence of wind-related ripples, essential for remote sensing measurements, turns out to be dependent on the stage of generation.

Open access
Audrey Delpech
,
Roy Barkan
,
Kaushik Srinivasan
,
James C. McWilliams
,
Brian K. Arbic
,
Oladeji Q. Siyanbola
, and
Maarten C. Buijsman

Abstract

Oceanic mixing, mostly driven by the breaking of internal waves at small scales in the ocean interior, is of major importance for ocean circulation and the ocean response to future climate scenarios. Understanding how internal waves transfer their energy to smaller scales from their generation to their dissipation is therefore an important step for improving the representation of ocean mixing in climate models. In this study, the processes leading to cross-scale energy fluxes in the internal wave field are quantified using an original decomposition approach in a realistic numerical simulation of the California Current. We quantify the relative contribution of eddy–internal wave interactions and wave–wave interactions to these fluxes and show that eddy–internal wave interactions are more efficient than wave–wave interactions in the formation of the internal wave continuum spectrum. Carrying out twin numerical simulations, where we successively activate or deactivate one of the main internal wave forcing, we also show that eddy–near-inertial internal wave interactions are more efficient in the cross-scale energy transfer than eddy–tidal internal wave interactions. This results in the dissipation being dominated by the near-inertial internal waves over tidal internal waves. A companion study focuses on the role of stimulated cascade on the energy and enstrophy fluxes.

Open access
Maya I. Jakes
,
Helen E. Phillips
,
Annie Foppert
,
Ajitha Cyriac
,
Nathaniel L. Bindoff
,
Stephen R. Rintoul
, and
Andrew F. Thompson

Abstract

Eddy stirring at mesoscale oceanic fronts generates finescale filaments, visible in submesoscale-resolving model simulations and high-resolution satellite images of sea surface temperature, ocean color, and sea ice. Submesoscale filaments have widths of O(1–10) km and evolve on time scales of hours to days, making them extremely challenging to observe. Despite their relatively small scale, submesoscale processes play a key role in the climate system by providing a route to dissipation; altering the stratification of the ocean interior; and generating strong vertical velocities that exchange heat, carbon, nutrients, and oxygen between the mixed layer and the ocean interior. We present a unique set of in situ and satellite observations in a standing meander region of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) that supports the theory of cold filamentary intensification—revealing enhanced vertical velocities and evidence of subduction and ventilation associated with finescale cold filaments. We show that these processes are not confined to the mixed layer; EM-APEX floats reveal enhanced downward velocities (>100 m day−1) and evidence of ageostrophic motion extending as deep as 1600 dbar, associated with a ∼20-km-wide cold filament. A finer-scale (∼5 km wide) cold filament crossed by a towed Triaxus is associated with anomalous chlorophyll and oxygen values extending at least 100–200 dbar below the base of the mixed layer, implying recent subduction and ventilation. Energetic standing meanders within the weakly stratified ACC provide an environment conductive to the generation of finescale filaments that can transport water mass properties across mesoscale fronts and deep into the ocean interior.

Open access
Takaya Uchida
,
Quentin Jamet
,
William K. Dewar
,
Bruno Deremble
,
Andrew C. Poje
, and
Luolin Sun

Abstract

We examine the ocean energy cycle where the eddies are defined about the ensemble mean of a partially air–sea coupled, eddy-rich ensemble simulation of the North Atlantic. The decomposition about the ensemble mean leads to a parameter-free definition of eddies, which is interpreted as the expression of oceanic chaos. Using the ensemble framework, we define the reservoirs of mean and eddy kinetic energy (MKE and EKE, respectively) and mean total dynamic enthalpy (MTDE). We opt for the usage of dynamic enthalpy (DE) as a proxy for potential energy due to its dynamically consistent relation to hydrostatic pressure in Boussinesq fluids and nonreliance on any reference stratification. The curious result that emerges is that the potential energy reservoir cannot be decomposed into its mean and eddy components, and the eddy flux of DE can be absorbed into the EKE budget as pressure work. We find from the energy cycle that while baroclinic instability, associated with a positive vertical eddy buoyancy flux, tends to peak around February, EKE takes its maximum around September in the wind-driven gyre. Interestingly, the energy input from MKE to EKE, a process sometimes associated with barotropic processes, becomes larger than the vertical eddy buoyancy flux during the summer and autumn. Our results question the common notion that the inverse energy cascade of wintertime EKE energized by baroclinic instability within the mixed layer is solely responsible for the summer-to-autumn peak in EKE and suggest that both the eddy transport of DE and transfer of energy from MKE to EKE contribute to the seasonal EKE maxima.

Significance Statement

The Earth system, including the ocean, is chaotic. Namely, the state to be realized is highly sensitive to minute perturbations, a phenomenon commonly known as the “butterfly effect.” Here, we run a sweep of ocean simulations that allow us to disentangle the oceanic expression of chaos from the oceanic response to the atmosphere. We investigate the energy pathways between the two in a physically consistent manner in the North Atlantic region. Our approach can be extended to robustly examine the temporal change of oceanic energy and heat distribution under a warming climate.

Open access
Hieu T. Pham
,
Sutanu Sarkar
,
William D. Smyth
,
James N. Moum
, and
Sally J. Warner

Abstract

Observations in the Pacific Equatorial Undercurrents (EUC) show that the nighttime deep-cycle turbulence (DCT) in the marginal-instability (MI) layer of the EUC exhibits seasonal variability that can modulate heat transport and sea surface temperature. Large-eddy simulations (LES), spanning a wide range of control parameters, are performed to identify the key processes that influence the turbulent heat flux at multiple time scales ranging from turbulent (minutes to hours) to daily to seasonal. The control parameters include wind stress, convective surface heat flux, shear magnitude, and thickness of the MI layer. In the LES, DCT occurs in discrete bursts during the night, exhibits high temporal variability within a burst, and modulates the mixed layer depth. At the daily time scale, turbulent heat flux generally increases with increasing wind stress, MI-layer shear, or nighttime convection. Convection is found to be important to mixing under weak wind, weak shear conditions. A parameterization for the daily averaged turbulent heat flux is developed from the LES suite to infer the variability of heat flux at the seasonal time scale. The LES-based parameterized heat flux, which takes into account the effects of all control parameters, exhibits a seasonal variability that is similar to the observed heat flux from the χ-pods.

Open access