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  • The Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES) x
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Byron F. Kilbourne and James B. Girton

Abstract

Wind-forced internal waves close to the inertial frequency are ubiquitous throughout the world’s oceans, but observational constraints on their global energetics and impact on subsurface mixing remain scarce. This study reports on velocity measurements from three Electromagnetic Autonomous Profiling Explorers (EM-APEX) deployed in February 2009. These floats observed downward-propagating near-inertial internal waves near the Subantarctic and Polar Fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. These waves were episodic and enhanced at middepth between 500 and 1000 m. Depth-integrated kinetic energy varied between 1 and 7 kJ m−2 and averaged 1.6 kJ m−2 with typical group velocities of 40 m day−1, implying an average energy flux of 3 mW m−2 at the mixed layer base decreasing to approximately 25% of that value at 1500 m. Modeled currents forced by reanalysis winds along each float track agree with observed surface currents from EM-APEX, provided that mixed layer depth is restricted to the layer of weakest observable stratification (interpreted as the maximum depth that can remain mixed over an inertial period given the continual balance between mixing and restratification). This model estimates an average wind power of 3 mW m−2. Shipboard wind and current observations during a strong storm show an integrated wind work of 3.5 kJ m−2, comparable to the vertically integrated kinetic energy over the following month. Model wind work estimates are considerably less, likely because of the mixed layer depth used. A model with varying stratification in response to the wind provides a better match to the observations, emphasizing the importance of stratification within the mixed layer in amplifying wind energy input.

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Ross Tulloch, Raffaele Ferrari, Oliver Jahn, Andreas Klocker, Joseph LaCasce, James R. Ledwell, John Marshall, Marie-Jose Messias, Kevin Speer, and Andrew Watson

Abstract

The first direct estimate of the rate at which geostrophic turbulence mixes tracers across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is presented. The estimate is computed from the spreading of a tracer released upstream of Drake Passage as part of the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES). The meridional eddy diffusivity, a measure of the rate at which the area of the tracer spreads along an isopycnal across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, is 710 ± 260 m2 s−1 at 1500-m depth. The estimate is based on an extrapolation of the tracer-based diffusivity using output from numerical tracers released in a one-twentieth of a degree model simulation of the circulation and turbulence in the Drake Passage region. The model is shown to reproduce the observed spreading rate of the DIMES tracer and suggests that the meridional eddy diffusivity is weak in the upper kilometer of the water column with values below 500 m2 s−1 and peaks at the steering level, near 2 km, where the eddy phase speed is equal to the mean flow speed. These vertical variations are not captured by ocean models presently used for climate studies, but they significantly affect the ventilation of different water masses.

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Michael Bates, Ross Tulloch, John Marshall, and Raffaele Ferrari

Abstract

Observations and theory suggest that lateral mixing by mesoscale ocean eddies only reaches its maximum potential at steering levels, surfaces at which the propagation speed of eddies approaches that of the mean flow. Away from steering levels, mixing is strongly suppressed because the mixing length is smaller than the eddy scale, thus reducing the mixing rates. The suppression is particularly pronounced in strong currents where mesoscale eddies are most energetic. Here, a framework for parameterizing eddy mixing is explored that attempts to capture this suppression. An expression of the surface eddy diffusivity proposed by Ferrari and Nikurashin is evaluated using observations of eddy kinetic energy, eddy scale, and eddy propagation speed. The resulting global maps of eddy diffusivity have a broad correspondence with recent estimates of diffusivity based on the rate at which tracer contours are stretched by altimetric-derived surface currents. Finally, the expression for the eddy diffusivity is extrapolated in the vertical to infer the eddy-induced meridional heat transport and the overturning streamfunction.

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J. H. LaCasce, R. Ferrari, J. Marshall, R. Tulloch, D. Balwada, and K. Speer

Abstract

As part of the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES), 210 subsurface floats were deployed west of the Drake Passage on two targeted density surfaces. Absolute (single particle) diffusivities are calculated for the floats. The focus is on the meridional component, which is less affected by the mean shear. The diffusivities are estimated in several ways, including a novel method based on the probability density function of the meridional displacements. This allows the determination of the range of possible lateral diffusivities, as well as the period over which the spreading can be said to be diffusive. The method is applied to the float data and to synthetic trajectories generated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology General Circulation Model (MITgcm). Because of ballasting problems, many of the floats did not remain on their targeted density surface. However, the float temperature records suggest that most occupied a small range of densities, so the floats were grouped together for the analysis. The latter focuses on a subset of 109 of the floats, launched near 105°W. The different methods yield a consistent estimate for the diffusivity of 800 ± 200 m2 s−1. The same calculations were made with model particles deployed on 20 different density surfaces and the result for the particles deployed on the neutral density surface γ = 27.7 surface was the same within the errors. The model was then used to map the variation of the diffusivity in the vertical, near the core of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). The results suggest mixing is intensified at middepths, between 1500 and 2000 m, consistent with several previous studies.

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Marina Frants, Gillian M. Damerell, Sarah T. Gille, Karen J. Heywood, Jennifer MacKinnon, and Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Finescale estimates of diapycnal diffusivity κ are computed from CTD and expendable CTD (XCTD) data sampled in Drake Passage and in the eastern Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean and are compared against microstructure measurements from the same times and locations. The microstructure data show vertical diffusivities that are one-third to one-fifth as large over the smooth abyssal plain in the southeastern Pacific as they are in Drake Passage, where diffusivities are thought to be enhanced by the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current over rough topography. Finescale methods based on vertical strain estimates are successful at capturing the spatial variability between the low-mixing regime in the southeastern Pacific and the high-mixing regime of Drake Passage. Thorpe-scale estimates for the same dataset fail to capture the differences between Drake Passage and eastern Pacific estimates. XCTD profiles have lower vertical resolution and higher noise levels after filtering than CTD profiles, resulting in XCTD κ estimates that are, on average, an order of magnitude higher than CTD estimates. Overall, microstructure diffusivity estimates are better matched by strain-based estimates than by estimates based on Thorpe scales, and CTD data appear to perform better than XCTD data. However, even the CTD-based strain diffusivity estimates can differ from microstructure diffusivities by nearly an order of magnitude, suggesting that density-based fine-structure methods of estimating mixing from CTD or XCTD data have real limitations in low-stratification regimes such as the Southern Ocean.

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J. Alexander Brearley, Katy L. Sheen, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, David A. Smeed, and Stephanie Waterman

Abstract

Mesoscale eddies are universal features of the ocean circulation, yet the processes by which their energy is dissipated remain poorly understood. One hypothesis argues that the interaction of strong geostrophic flows with rough bottom topography effects an energy transfer between eddies and internal waves, with the breaking of these waves causing locally elevated dissipation focused near the sea floor. This study uses hydrographic and velocity data from a 1-yr mooring cluster deployment in the Southern Ocean to test this hypothesis. The moorings were located over a small (~10 km) topographic obstacle to the east of Drake Passage in a region of high eddy kinetic energy, and one was equipped with an ADCP at 2800-m depth from which internal wave shear variance and dissipation rates were calculated. Examination of the ADCP time series revealed a predominance of upward-propagating internal wave energy and a significant correlation (r = 0.45) between shear variance levels and subinertial near-bottom current speeds. Periods of strong near-bottom flow coincided with increased convergence of eddy-induced interfacial form stress in the bottom 1500 m. Predictions of internal wave energy radiation were made from theory using measured near-bottom current speeds, and the mean value of wave radiation (5.3 mW m−2) was sufficient to support the dissipated power calculated from the ADCP. A significant temporal correlation was also observed between radiated and dissipated power. Given the ubiquity of strong eddy flows and rough topography in the Southern Ocean, the transfer from eddy to internal wave energy is likely to be an important term in closing the ocean energy budget.

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Matthew R. Mazloff, Raffaele Ferrari, and Tapio Schneider

Abstract

The Southern Ocean (SO) limb of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is characterized by three vertically stacked cells, each with a transport of about 10 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). The buoyancy transport in the SO is dominated by the upper and middle MOC cells, with the middle cell accounting for most of the buoyancy transport across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. A Southern Ocean state estimate for the years 2005 and 2006 with ⅙° resolution is used to determine the forces balancing this MOC. Diagnosing the zonal momentum budget in density space allows an exact determination of the adiabatic and diapycnal components balancing the thickness-weighted (residual) meridional transport. It is found that, to lowest order, the transport consists of an eddy component, a directly wind-driven component, and a component in balance with mean pressure gradients. Nonvanishing time-mean pressure gradients arise because isopycnal layers intersect topography or the surface in a circumpolar integral, leading to a largely geostrophic MOC even in the latitude band of Drake Passage. It is the geostrophic water mass transport in the surface layer where isopycnals outcrop that accomplishes the poleward buoyancy transport.

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L. St. Laurent, A. C. Naveira Garabato, J. R. Ledwell, A. M. Thurnherr, J. M. Toole, and A. J. Watson

Abstract

Direct measurements of turbulence levels in the Drake Passage region of the Southern Ocean show a marked enhancement over the Phoenix Ridge. At this site, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is constricted in its flow between the southern tip of South America and the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Observed turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates are enhanced in the regions corresponding to the ACC frontal zones where strong flow reaches the bottom. In these areas, turbulent dissipation levels reach 10−8 W kg−1 at abyssal and middepths. The mixing enhancement in the frontal regions is sufficient to elevate the diapycnal turbulent diffusivity acting in the deep water above the axis of the ridge to 1 × 10−4 m2 s−1. This level is an order of magnitude larger than the mixing levels observed upstream in the ACC above smoother bathymetry. Outside of the frontal regions, dissipation rates are O(10−10) W kg−1, comparable to the background levels of turbulence found throughout most mid- and low-latitude regions of the global ocean.

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J. R. Ledwell, L. C. St. Laurent, J. B. Girton, and J. M. Toole

Abstract

The vertical dispersion of a tracer released on a density surface near 1500-m depth in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current west of Drake Passage indicates that the diapycnal diffusivity, averaged over 1 yr and over tens of thousands of square kilometers, is (1.3 ± 0.2) × 10−5 m2 s−1. Diapycnal diffusivity estimated from turbulent kinetic energy dissipation measurements about the area occupied by the tracer in austral summer 2010 was somewhat less, but still within a factor of 2, at (0.75 ± 0.07) × 10−5 m2 s−1. Turbulent diapycnal mixing of this intensity is characteristic of the midlatitude ocean interior, where the energy for mixing is believed to derive from internal wave breaking. Indeed, despite the frequent and intense atmospheric forcing experienced by the Southern Ocean, the amplitude of finescale velocity shear sampled about the tracer was similar to background amplitudes in the midlatitude ocean, with levels elevated to only 20%–50% above the Garrett–Munk reference spectrum. These results add to a long line of evidence that diapycnal mixing in the interior middepth ocean is weak and is likely too small to dictate the middepth meridional overturning circulation of the ocean.

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