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F. Sévellec, A. C. Naveira Garabato, and T. Huck

Abstract

The impact of mesoscale eddy turbulence on long-term, climatic variability in the ocean’s buoyancy structure is investigated using observations from a mooring deployed in the Drake Passage, Southern Ocean. By applying the temporal-residual-mean framework and characterizing the variance contributors and the buoyancy variance budget, we identify the main source and sink of long-term buoyancy variance. Long-term buoyancy variance amplitude is set by long-term vertical velocity fluctuations acting on the steady stratification. This baroclinic buoyancy flux is also the main source of the variance, indicative of the effect of large-scale baroclinic instability. This source is balanced by a sink of long-term buoyancy variance associated with the vertical advection of the steady stratification by the eddy-induced circulation. We conclude that mesoscale eddy turbulence acts as a damping mechanism for long-term, climatic variability in the region of the observations, consistent with an “eddy saturated” behavior of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

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Jenson V. George, P. N. Vinayachandran, and Anoop A. Nayak

Abstract

The inflow of high-saline water from the Arabian Sea (AS) into the Bay of Bengal (BoB) and its subsequent mixing with the relatively fresh BoB water is vital for the north Indian Ocean salt budget. During June–September, the Summer Monsoon Current carries high-salinity water from the AS to the BoB. A time series of microstructure and hydrographic data collected from 4 to 14 July 2016 in the southern BoB (8°N, 89°E) showed the presence of a subsurface (60–150 m) high-salinity core. The high-salinity core was composed of relatively warm and saline AS water overlying the relatively cold and fresh BoB water. The lower part of the high-salinity core showed double-diffusive salt fingering instability. Salt fingering staircases with varying thickness (up to 10 m) in the temperature and salinity profiles were also observed at the base of a high-salinity core at approximately 75–150-m depth. The average downward diapycnal salt flux out of the high-salinity core due to the effect of salt fingering was 2.8 × 10−7 kg m−2 s−1, approximately one order of magnitude higher than the flux if salt fingering was neglected.

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R. Pawlowicz

Abstract

Beaches, especially at or above the high tide line, are often covered in debris. An obvious approach to understanding the source of this debris elsewhere in the ocean is to use Lagrangian methods (observationally or in numerical simulations). However, the actual grounding of these floating objects, that is, the transition between freely floating near the coast and motionless on land, is poorly understood. Here, 800 groundings from a recent circulation project using expendable tracked drifters in the Salish Sea are statistically analyzed. Although the grounding process for individual drifters can be complex and highly variable, suitable analyses show that the complications of coastlines can be statistically summarized in meaningful ways. The velocity structure approaching the coastline suggests a quasi-steady “log-layer” associated with coastline friction. Although groundings are marginally more likely to occur at higher tides, there are many counterexamples and the preference is not overwhelming. The actual grounding process is then well modeled as a stationary process using a classical eddy-diffusivity formulation, and the eddy diffusivity that best matches observations is similar to that appearing in open waters away from the coast. A new parameter in this formulation is equivalent to a mean shoreward velocity for floating objects, which could vary with beach morphology and also (in theory) be measured offshore. Finally, it appears that currently used ad hoc beaching parameterizations should be reasonably successful in qualitative terms, but are unlikely to be quantitatively accurate enough for predictions of grounding mass budgets and fluxes.

Open access
Olavo B. Marques, Matthew H. Alford, Robert Pinkel, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Jody M. Klymak, Jonathan D. Nash, Amy F. Waterhouse, Samuel M. Kelly, Harper L. Simmons, and Dmitry Braznikov

Abstract

Mode-1 internal tides can propagate far away from their generation sites, but how and where their energy is dissipated is not well understood. One example is the semidiurnal internal tide generated south of New Zealand, which propagates over a thousand kilometers before impinging on the continental slope of Tasmania. In situ observations and model results from a recent process-study experiment are used to characterize the spatial and temporal variability of the internal tide on the southeastern Tasman slope, where previous studies have quantified large reflectivity. As expected, a standing wave pattern broadly explains the cross-slope and vertical structure of the observed internal tide. However, model and observations highlight several additional features of the internal tide on the continental slope. The standing wave pattern on the sloping bottom as well as small-scale bathymetric corrugations lead to bottom-enhanced tidal energy. Over the corrugations, larger tidal currents and isopycnal displacements are observed along the trough as opposed to the crest. Despite the long-range propagation of the internal tide, most of the variability in energy density on the slope is accounted by the spring–neap cycle. However, the timing of the semidiurnal spring tides is not consistent with a single remote wave and is instead explained by the complex interference between remote and local tides on the Tasman slope. These observations suggest that identifying the multiple waves in an interference pattern and their interaction with small-scale topography is an important step in modeling internal energy and dissipation.

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Dhruv Balwada, Joseph H. LaCasce, Kevin G. Speer, and Raffaele Ferrari

Abstract

Stirring in the subsurface Southern Ocean is examined using RAFOS float trajectories, collected during the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES), along with particle trajectories from a regional eddy permitting model. A central question is the extent to which the stirring is local, by eddies comparable in size to the pair separation, or nonlocal, by eddies at larger scales. To test this, we examine metrics based on averaging in time and in space. The model particles exhibit nonlocal dispersion, as expected for a limited resolution numerical model that does not resolve flows at scales smaller than ~10 days or ~20–30 km. The different metrics are less consistent for the RAFOS floats; relative dispersion, kurtosis, and relative diffusivity suggest nonlocal dispersion as they are consistent with the model within error, while finite-size Lyapunov exponents (FSLE) suggests local dispersion. This occurs for two reasons: (i) limited sampling of the inertial length scales and a relatively small number of pairs hinder statistical robustness in time-based metrics, and (ii) some space-based metrics (FSLE, second-order structure functions), which do not average over wave motions and are reflective of the kinetic energy distribution, are probably unsuitable to infer dispersion characteristics if the flow field includes energetic wave motions that do not disperse particles. The relative diffusivity, which is also a space-based metric, allows averaging over waves to infer the dispersion characteristics. Hence, given the error characteristics of the metrics and data used here, the stirring in the DIMES region is likely to be nonlocal at scales of 5–100 km.

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Matthew S. Spydell, Falk Feddersen, and Jamie Macmahan

Abstract

Oceanographic relative dispersion Dr2 (based on drifter separations r) has been extensively studied, mostly finding either Richardson–Obukhov (Dr2~t3) or enstrophy cascade [Dr2~exp(t)] scaling. Relative perturbation dispersion Dr2 (based on perturbation separation rr 0, where r 0 is the initial separation) has a Batchelor scaling (Dr2~t2) for times less than the r 0-dependent Batchelor time. Batchelor scaling has received little oceanographic attention. GPS-equipped surface drifters were repeatedly deployed on the Inner Shelf off of Pt. Sal, California, in water depths ≤ 40 m. From 12 releases of ≈18 drifters per release, perturbation and regular relative dispersion over ≈4 h are calculated for 250 ≤ r 0 ≤ 1500 m for each release and the entire experiment. The perturbation dispersion Dr2 is consistent with Batchelor scaling for the first 1000–3000 s with larger r 0 yielding stronger dispersion and larger Batchelor times. At longer times, Dr2 and scale-dependent diffusivities begin to suggest Richardson–Obukhov scaling. This applies to both experiment averaged and individual releases. For individual releases, nonlinear internal waves can modulate dispersion. Batchelor scaling is not evident in Dr2 as the correlations between initial and later separations are significant at short time scaling as ~t. Thus, previous studies investigating Dr2(t) are potentially aliased by initial separation effects not present in the perturbation dispersion Dr2(t). As the underlying turbulent velocity wavenumber spectra is inferred from the dispersion power law time dependence, analysis of both Dr2 and Dr2 is critical.

Open access
Suyash Bire and Christopher L.P. Wolfe

Abstract

The zonal and meridional overturning circulations of buoyancy-forced basins are studied in an eddy-resolving model. The zonal overturning circulation (ZOC) is driven by the meridional gradient of buoyancy at the surface and stratification at the southern boundary. The ZOC, in turn, produces zonal buoyancy gradients through upwelling and downwelling at the western and eastern boundaries, respectively. The meridional overturning circulation (MOC) is driven by these zonal gradients rather than being directly driven by meridional gradients. Eddies lead to a broadening of the upwelling and downwelling limbs of the ZOC, as well as a decoupling of the locations of vertical and diapycnal transport. This broadening is more prominent on the eastern boundary, where westward-moving eddies transport warm water away from a poleward-flowing eastern boundary current. Most of the diapycnal downwelling occurs in the “swash zone”—the region where the isopycnals intermittently come in contact with the surface and lose buoyancy to the atmosphere. A scaling for the overturning circulations, which depends on the background stratification and the surface buoyancy gradient, is derived and found to be an excellent fit to the numerical experiments.

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Madeleine M. Hamann, Matthew H. Alford, Andrew J. Lucas, Amy F. Waterhouse, and Gunnar Voet

Abstract

The La Jolla Canyon System (LJCS) is a small, steep, shelf-incising canyon offshore of San Diego, California. Observations conducted in the fall of 2016 capture the dynamics of internal tides and turbulence patterns. Semidiurnal (D2) energy flux was oriented up-canyon; 62% ± 20% of the signal was contained in mode 1 at the offshore mooring. The observed mode-1 D2 tide was partly standing based on the ratio of group speed times energy c g E and energy flux F. Enhanced dissipation occurred near the canyon head at middepths associated with elevated strain arising from the standing wave pattern. Modes 2–5 were progressive, and energy fluxes associated with these modes were oriented down-canyon, suggesting that incident mode-1 waves were back-reflected and scattered. Flux integrated over all modes across a given canyon cross section was always onshore and generally decreased moving shoreward (from 240 ± 15 to 5 ± 0.3 kW), with a 50-kW increase in flux occurring on a section inshore of the canyon’s major bend, possibly due to reflection of incident waves from the supercritical sidewalls of the bend. Flux convergence from canyon mouth to head was balanced by the volume-integrated dissipation observed. By comparing energy budgets from a global compendium of canyons with sufficient observations (six in total), a similar balance was found. One exception was Juan de Fuca Canyon, where such a balance was not found, likely due to its nontidal flows. These results suggest that internal tides incident at the mouth of a canyon system are dissipated therein rather than leaking over the sidewalls or siphoning energy to other wave frequencies.

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Dong Wang and Tobias Kukulka

Abstract

This study investigates the dynamics of velocity shear and Reynolds stress in the ocean surface boundary layer for idealized misaligned wind and wave fields using a large-eddy simulation (LES) model based on the Craik–Leibovich equations, which captures Langmuir turbulence (LT). To focus on the role of LT, the LES experiments omit the Coriolis force, which obscures a stress–current-relation analysis. Furthermore, a vertically uniform body force is imposed so that the volume-averaged Eulerian flow does not accelerate but is steady. All simulations are first spun-up without wind-wave misalignment to reach a fully developed stationary turbulent state. Then, a crosswind Stokes drift profile is abruptly imposed, which drives crosswind stresses and associated crosswind currents without generating volume-averaged crosswind currents. The flow evolves to a new stationary state, in which the crosswind Reynolds stress vanishes while the crosswind Eulerian shear and Stokes drift shear are still present, yielding a misalignment between Reynolds stress and Lagrangian shear (sum of Eulerian current and Stokes drift). A Reynolds stress budgets analysis reveals a balance between stress production and velocity–pressure gradient terms (VPG) that encloses crosswind Eulerian shear, demonstrating a complex relation between shear and stress. In addition, the misalignment between Reynolds stress and Eulerian shear generates a horizontal turbulent momentum flux (due to correlations of along-wind and crosswind turbulent velocities) that can be important in producing Reynolds stress (due to correlations of horizontal and vertical turbulent velocities). Thus, details of the Reynolds stress production by Eulerian and Stokes drift shear may be critical for driving upper-ocean currents and for accurate turbulence parameterizations in misaligned wind-wave conditions.

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Baolan Wu, Xiaopei Lin, and Lisan Yu

Abstract

The meridional shift of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) front and changes in the formation of the North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water (STMW) during 1979–2018 are reported. The surface-to-subsurface structure of the KE front averaged over 142°–165°E has shifted poleward at a rate of ~0.23° ± 0.16° decade−1. The shift was caused mainly by the poleward shift of the downstream KE front (153°–165°E, ~0.41° ± 0.29° decade−1) and barely by the upstream KE front (142°–153°E). The long-term shift trend of the KE front showed two distinct behaviors before and after 2002. Before 2002, the surface KE front moved northward with a faster rate than the subsurface. After 2002, the surface KE front showed no obvious trend, but the subsurface KE front continued to move northward. The ventilation zone of the STMW, defined by the area between the 16° and 18°C isotherms or between the 25 and 25.5 kg m−3 isopycnals, contracted and displaced northward with a shoaling of the mixed layer depth h m before 2002 when the KE front moved northward. The STMW subduction rate was reduced by 0.76 Sv (63%; 1 Sv ≡ = 106 m3 s−1) during 1979–2018, most of which occurred before 2002. Of the three components affecting the total subduction rate, the temporal induction (−∂h m/∂t) was dominant accounting for 91% of the rate reduction, while the vertical pumping (−w mb) amounted to 8% and the lateral induction (−u mb ⋅ ∇h m) was insignificant. The reduced temporal induction was attributed to both the contracted ventilation zone and the shallowed h m that were incurred by the poleward shift of KE front.

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