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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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Yang Yang, James C. McWilliams, X. San Liang, Hong Zhang, Robert H. Weisberg, Yonggang Liu, and Dimitris Menemenlis

Abstract

The submesoscale energetics of the eastern Gulf of Mexico (GoM) are diagnosed using outputs from a 1/48° MITgcm simulation. Employed is a recently developed, localized multiscale energetics formalism with three temporal-scale ranges (or scale windows), namely, a background flow window, a mesoscale window, and a submesoscale window. It is found that the energy cascades are highly inhomogeneous in space. Over the eastern continental slope of the Campeche Bank, the submesoscale eddies are generated via barotropic instability, with forward cascades of kinetic energy (KE) following a weak seasonal variation. In the deep basin of the eastern GoM, the submesoscale KE exhibits a seasonal cycle, peaking in winter, maintained via baroclinic instability, with forward available potential energy (APE) cascades in the mixed layer, followed by a strong buoyancy conversion. A spatially coherent pool of inverse KE cascade is found to extract energy from the submesoscale KE reservoir in this region to replenish the background flow. The northern GoM features the strongest submesoscale signals with a similar seasonality as seen in the deep basin. The dominant source for the submesoscale KE during winter is from buoyancy conversion and also from the forward KE cascades from mesoscale processes. To maintain the balance, the excess submesoscale KE must be dissipated by smaller-scale processes via a forward cascade, implying a direct route to finescale dissipation. Our results highlight that the role of submesoscale turbulence in the ocean energy cycle is region and time dependent.

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Ruichen Zhu, Zhaohui Chen, Zhiwei Zhang, Haiyuan Yang, and Lixin Wu

Abstract

Subthermocline eddies (STEs), also termed intrathermocline eddies or submesoscale coherent vortices, are lens-shaped eddies with anomalous water properties located in or below the thermocline. Although STEs have been discovered in many parts of the World Ocean, most of them were observed accidentally in hydrographic profiles, and direct velocity measurements are very rare. In this study, dynamic features of STEs in the Kuroshio Extension (KE) region are examined in detail using concurrent temperature/salinity and velocity measurements from mooring arrays. During the moored observation periods of 2004–06 and 2015–19, 11 single-core STEs, including 8 with warm/salty cores and 3 with cold/fresh cores, were captured. The thermohaline properties in their cores suggest that these STEs may originate from the subarctic front and the upstream Kuroshio south of Japan. The estimated radius of these STEs varied from 8 to 66 km with the mean value of ~30 km. The warm/salty STEs seemed to be larger and rotate faster than the cold/fresh ones. In addition to single-core STEs, a dual-core STE was observed in the KE recirculation region, which showed that the upper cold/fresh cores stacked vertically over the lower warm/salty cores. Based on the observed parameters of the STEs, their Rossby number and Burger number were further estimated, with values up to 0.5 and 1, respectively. Furthermore, a low Richardson number O (0.25) was found at the periphery of these STEs, suggesting that shear instability-induced turbulent mixing may be an erosion route for the STEs.

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Leo Middleton, Catherine A. Vreugdenhil, Paul R. Holland, and John R. Taylor

Abstract

The transport of heat and salt through turbulent ice shelf–ocean boundary layers is a large source of uncertainty within ocean models of ice shelf cavities. This study uses small-scale, high-resolution, 3D numerical simulations to model an idealized boundary layer beneath a melting ice shelf to investigate the influence of ambient turbulence on double-diffusive convection (i.e., convection driven by the difference in diffusivities between salinity and temperature). Isotropic turbulence is forced throughout the simulations and the temperature and salinity are initialized with homogeneous values similar to observations. The initial temperature and the strength of forced turbulence are varied as controlling parameters within an oceanographically relevant parameter space. Two contrasting regimes are identified. In one regime double-diffusive convection dominates, and in the other convection is inhibited by the forced turbulence. The convective regime occurs for high temperatures and low turbulence levels, where it is long lived and affects the flow, melt rate, and melt pattern. A criterion for identifying convection in terms of the temperature and salinity profiles, and the turbulent dissipation rate, is proposed. This criterion may be applied to observations and theoretical models to quantify the effect of double-diffusive convection on ice shelf melt rates.

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Clément Vic, Bruno Ferron, Virginie Thierry, Herlé Mercier, and Pascale Lherminier

Abstract

Internal waves in the semidiurnal and near-inertial bands are investigated using an array of seven moorings located over the Reykjanes Ridge in a cross-ridge direction (57.6°–59.1°N, 28.5°–33.3°W). Continuous measurements of horizontal velocity and temperature for more than 2 years allow us to estimate the kinetic energy density and the energy fluxes of the waves. We found that there is a remarkable phase locking and linear relationship between the semidiurnal energy density and the tidal energy conversion at the spring–neap cycle. The energy-to-conversion ratio gives replenishment time scales of 4–5 days on the ridge top versus 7–9 days on the flanks. Altogether, these results demonstrate that the bulk of the tidal energy on the ridge comes from near-local sources, with a redistribution of energy from the top to the flanks, which is endorsed by the energy fluxes oriented in the cross-ridge direction. Implications for tidally driven energy dissipation are discussed. The time-averaged near-inertial kinetic energy is smaller than the semidiurnal kinetic energy by a factor of 2–3 but is much more variable in time. It features a strong seasonal cycle with a winter intensification and subseasonal peaks associated with local wind bursts. The ratio of energy to wind work gives replenishment time scales of 13–15 days, which is consistent with the short time scales of observed variability of near-inertial energy. In the upper ocean (1 km), the highest levels of near-inertial energy are preferentially found in anticyclonic structures, with a twofold increase relative to cyclonic structures, illustrating the funneling effect of anticyclones.

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Audrey Delpech, Claire Ménesguen, Yves Morel, Leif N. Thomas, Frédéric Marin, Sophie Cravatte, and Sylvie Le Gentil

Abstract

At low latitudes in the ocean, the deep currents are shaped into narrow jets flowing eastward and westward, reversing periodically with latitude between 15°S and 15°N. These jets are present from the thermocline to the bottom. The energy sources and the physical mechanisms responsible for their formation are still debated and poorly understood. This study explores the role of the destabilization of intra-annual equatorial waves in the jets’ formation process, as these waves are known to be an important energy source at low latitudes. The study focuses particularly on the role of barotropic Rossby waves as a first step toward understanding the relevant physical mechanisms. It is shown from a set of idealized numerical simulations and analytical solutions that nonlinear triad interactions (NLTIs) play a crucial role in the transfer of energy toward jet-like structures (long waves with short meridional wavelengths) that induce a zonal residual mean circulation. The sensitivity of the instability emergence and the scale selection of the jet-like secondary wave to the forced primary wave are analyzed. For realistic amplitudes around 5–20 cm s−1, the primary waves that produce the most realistic jet-like structures are zonally propagating intra-annual waves with periods between 60 and 130 days and wavelengths between 200 and 300 km. The NLTI mechanism is a first step toward the generation of a permanent jet-structured circulation and is discussed in the context of turbulent cascade theories.

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Christian E. Buckingham, Jonathan Gula, and Xavier Carton

Abstract

In this study, we examine the role of curvature in modifying frontal stability. We first evaluate the classical criterion that the Coriolis parameter f multiplied by the Ertel potential vorticity (PV) q is positive for stable flow and that instability is possible when this quantity is negative. The first portion of this statement can be deduced from Ertel’s PV theorem, assuming an initially positive fq. Moreover, the full statement is implicit in the governing equation for the mean geostrophic flow, as the discriminant, fq, changes sign. However, for curved fronts in cyclogeostrophic or gradient wind balance (GWB), an additional term enters the discriminant owing to conservation of absolute angular momentum L. The resulting expression, (1 + Cu)fq < 0 or Lq < 0, where Cu is a nondimensional number quantifying the curvature of the flow, simultaneously generalizes Rayleigh’s criterion by accounting for baroclinicity and Hoskins’s criterion by accounting for centrifugal effects. In particular, changes in the front’s vertical shear and stratification owing to curvature tilt the absolute vorticity vector away from its thermal wind state; in an effort to conserve the product of absolute angular momentum and Ertel PV, this modifies gradient Rossby and Richardson numbers permitted for stable flow. This forms the basis of a nondimensional expression that is valid for inviscid, curved fronts on the f plane, which can be used to classify frontal instabilities. In conclusion, the classical criterion fq < 0 should be replaced by the more general criterion for studies involving gravitational, centrifugal, and symmetric instabilities at curved density fronts. In Part II of the study, we examine interesting outcomes of the criterion applied to low-Richardson-number fronts and vortices in GWB.

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Christian E. Buckingham, Jonathan Gula, and Xavier Carton

Abstract

We continue our study of the role of curvature in modifying frontal stability. In Part I, we obtained an instability criterion valid for curved fronts and vortices in gradient wind balance (GWB): Φ′ = Lq′ < 0, where L′ and q′ are the nondimensional absolute angular momentum and Ertel potential vorticity (PV), respectively. In Part II, we investigate this criterion in a parameter space representative of low-Richardson-number fronts and vortices in GWB. An interesting outcome is that, for Richardson numbers near 1, anticyclonic flows increase in q′, while cyclonic flows decrease in q′, tending to stabilize anticyclonic and destabilize cyclonic flow. Although stability is marginal or weak for anticyclonic flow (owing to multiplication by L′), the destabilization of cyclonic flow is pronounced, and may help to explain an observed asymmetry in the distribution of small-scale, coherent vortices in the ocean interior. We are referring to midlatitude submesoscale and polar mesoscale vortices that are generated by friction and/or buoyancy forcing within boundary layers but that are often documented outside these layers. A comparison is made between several documented vortices and predicted stability maps, providing support for the proposed mechanism. A simple expression, which is a root of the stability discriminant Φ′, explains the observed asymmetry in the distribution of vorticity. In conclusion, the generalized criterion is consistent with theory, observations, and recent modeling studies and demonstrates that curvature in low-stratified environments can destabilize cyclonic and stabilize anticyclonic fronts and vortices to symmetric instability. The results may have implications for Earth system models.

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