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Lei Han

Abstract

The meridional overturning circulation (MOC) seasonality in the Indian Ocean is investigated with the ocean state estimate product ECCO v4r3. The vertical movements of water parcels are predominantly due to the heaving of the isopycnals all over the basin except off the western coast. Aided by the linear propagation equation of long baroclinic Rossby waves, the driving factor determining the strength of the seasonal MOC in the Indian Ocean is identified as the zonally integrated Ekman pumping anomaly, rather than the Ekman transport concluded in earlier studies. A new concept of sloshing MOC is proposed, and its difference with the classic Eulerian MOC leads to the so-called diapycnal MOC. The striking resemblance of the Eulerian and sloshing MOCs implies the seasonal variation of the Eulerian MOC in the Indian Ocean is a sloshing mode. The shallow overturning cells manifest themselves in the diapycnal MOC as the most remarkable structure. New perspectives on the upwelling branch of the shallow overturn in the Indian Ocean are offered based on diapycnal vertical velocity. The discrepancy among the observation-based estimates on the bottom inflow across 32°S of the basin is interpreted with the seasonal sloshing mode. Consequently, the “missing mixing” in the deep Indian Ocean is attributed to the overestimated diapycnal volume fluxes. Decomposition of meridional heat transport (MHT) into sloshing and diapycnal components clearly shows the dominant mechanism of MHT in the Indian Ocean in various seasons.

Open access
Luna Hiron, David S. Nolan, and Lynn K. Shay

Abstract

The Loop Current (LC) system has long been assumed to be close to geostrophic balance despite its strong flow and the development of large meanders and strong frontal eddies during unstable phases. The region between the LC meanders and its frontal eddies was shown to have high Rossby numbers indicating nonlinearity; however, the effect of the nonlinear term on the flow has not been studied so far. In this study, the ageostrophy of the LC meanders is assessed using a high-resolution numerical model and geostrophic velocities from altimetry. A formula to compute the radius of curvature of the flow from the velocity field is also presented. The results indicate that during strong meandering, especially before and during LC shedding and in the presence of frontal eddies, the centrifugal force becomes as important as the Coriolis force and the pressure gradient force: LC meanders are in gradient-wind balance. The centrifugal force modulates the balance and modifies the flow speed, resulting in a subgeostrophic flow in the LC meander trough around the LC frontal eddies and supergeostrophic flow in the LC meander crest. The same pattern is found when correcting the geostrophic velocities from altimetry to account for the centrifugal force. The ageostrophic percentage in the cyclonic and anticyclonic meanders is 47% ± 1% and 78% ± 8% in the model and 31% ± 3% and 78% ± 29% in the altimetry dataset, respectively. Thus, the ageostrophic velocity is an important component of the LC flow and cannot be neglected when studying the LC system.

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Jessica S. Kenigson, Renske Gelderloos, and Georgy E. Manucharyan

Abstract

Theories of the Beaufort Gyre (BG) dynamics commonly represent the halocline as a single layer with a thickness depending on the Eulerian-mean and eddy-induced overturning. However, observations suggest that the isopycnal slope increases with depth, and a theory to explain this profile remains outstanding. Here we develop a multilayer model of the BG, including the Eulerian-mean velocity, mesoscale eddy activity, diapycnal mixing, and lateral boundary fluxes, and use it to investigate the dynamics within the Pacific Winter Water (PWW) layer. Using theoretical considerations, observational data, and idealized simulations, we demonstrate that the eddy overturning is critical in explaining the observed vertical structure. In the absence of the eddy overturning, the Ekman pumping and the relatively weak vertical mixing would displace isopycnals in a nearly parallel fashion, contrary to observations. This study finds that the observed increase of the isopycnal slope with depth in the climatological state of the gyre is consistent with a Gent–McWilliams eddy diffusivity coefficient that decreases by at least 10%–40% over the PWW layer. We further show that the depth-dependent eddy diffusivity profile can explain the relative magnitude of the correlated isopycnal depth and layer thickness fluctuations on interannual time scales. Our inference that the eddy overturning generates the isopycnal layer thickness gradients is consistent with the parameterization of eddies via a Gent–McWilliams scheme but not potential vorticity diffusion. This study implies that using a depth-independent eddy diffusivity, as is commonly done in low-resolution ocean models, may contribute to misrepresentation of the interior BG dynamics.

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Michael J. Bell, Adam T. Blaker, and Joël J.-M. Hirschi

Abstract

Large-amplitude [±100 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1)], high-frequency oscillations in the Pacific Ocean’s meridional overturning circulation within 10° of the equator have been found in integrations of the NEMO ocean general circulation model. Part I of this paper showed that these oscillations are dominated by two bands of frequencies with periods close to 4 and 10 days and that they are driven by the winds within about 10° of the equator. This part shows that the oscillations can be well simulated by small-amplitude, wind-driven motions on a horizontally uniform, stably stratified state of rest. Its main novelty is that, by focusing on the zonally integrated linearized equations, it presents solutions for the motions in a basin with sloping side boundaries. The solutions are found using vertical normal modes and equatorial meridional modes representing Yanai and inertia–gravity waves. Simulations of 16-day-long segments of the time series for the Pacific of each of the first three meridional and vertical modes (nine modes in all) capture between 85% and 95% of the variance of matching time series segments diagnosed from the NEMO integrations. The best agreement is obtained by driving the solutions with the full wind forcing and the full pressure forces on the bathymetry. Similar results are obtained for the corresponding modes in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Slower variations in the same meridional and vertical modes of the MOC are also shown to be well simulated by a quasi-stationary solution driven by zonal wind and pressure forces.

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Adam T. Blaker, Joël J.-M. Hirschi, Michael J. Bell, and Amy Bokota

Abstract

The great ocean conveyor presents a time-mean perspective on the interconnected network of major ocean currents. Zonally integrating the meridional velocities, either globally or across basin-scale domains, reduces the conveyor to a 2D projection widely known as the meridional overturning circulation (MOC). Recent model studies have shown the MOC to exhibit variability on near-inertial time scales, and also indicate a region of enhanced variability on the equator. We present an analysis of three integrations of a global configuration of a numerical ocean model, which show very large amplitude oscillations in the MOCs in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans confined to the equatorial region. The amplitude of these oscillations is proportional to the width of the ocean basin, typically about 100 (200) Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) in the Atlantic (Pacific). We show that these oscillations are driven by surface winds within 10°N/S of the equator, and their periods (typically 4–10 days) correspond to a small number of low-mode equatorially trapped planetary waves. Furthermore, the oscillations can be well reproduced by idealized wind-driven simulations linearized about a state of rest.

Open access
Xiaolong Yu, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, Adrian P. Martin, and David P. Marshall

Abstract

The evolution of upper-ocean potential vorticity (PV) over a full year in a typical midocean area of the northeast Atlantic is examined using submesoscale- and mesoscale-resolving hydrographic and velocity measurements from a mooring array. A PV budget framework is applied to quantitatively document the competing physical processes responsible for deepening and shoaling the mixed layer. The observations reveal a distinct seasonal cycle in upper-ocean PV, characterized by frequent occurrences of negative PV within deep (up to about 350 m) mixed layers from winter to mid-spring, and positive PV beneath shallow (mostly less than 50 m) mixed layers during the remainder of the year. The cumulative positive and negative subinertial changes in the mixed layer depth, which are largely unaccounted for by advective contributions, exceed the deepest mixed layer by one order of magnitude, suggesting that mixed layer depth is shaped by the competing effects of destratifying and restratifying processes. Deep mixed layers are attributed to persistent atmospheric cooling from winter to mid-spring, which triggers gravitational instability leading to mixed layer deepening. However, on shorter time scales of days, conditions favorable to symmetric instability often occur as winds intermittently align with transient frontal flows. The ensuing submesoscale frontal instabilities are found to fundamentally alter upper-ocean turbulent convection, and limit the deepening of the mixed layer in the winter-to-mid-spring period. These results emphasize the key role of submesoscale frontal instabilities in determining the seasonal evolution of the mixed layer in the open ocean.

Open access
Robin Waldman, Joël Hirschi, Aurore Voldoire, Christophe Cassou, and Rym Msadek

Abstract

This work aims to clarify the relation between the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and the thermal wind. We derive a new and generic dynamical AMOC decomposition that expresses the thermal wind transport as a simple vertical integral function of eastern minus western boundary densities. This allows us to express density anomalies at any depth as a geostrophic transport in Sverdrups (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) per meter and to predict that density anomalies around the depth of maximum overturning induce most AMOC transport. We then apply this formalism to identify the dynamical drivers of the centennial AMOC variability in the CNRM-CM6 climate model. The dynamical reconstruction and specifically the thermal wind component explain over 80% of the low-frequency AMOC variance at all latitudes, which is therefore almost exclusively driven by density anomalies at both zonal boundaries. This transport variability is dominated by density anomalies between depths of 500 and 1500 m, in agreement with theoretical predictions. At those depths, southward-propagating western boundary temperature anomalies induce the centennial geostrophic AMOC transport variability in the North Atlantic. They are originated along the western boundary of the subpolar gyre through the Labrador Sea deep convection and the Davis Strait overflow.

Open access
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