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Charles W. McMahon, Joseph J. Kuehl, and Vitalii A. Sheremet

Abstract

The dynamics of gap-leaping western boundary currents (e.g. the Kuroshio intrusion, the Loop Current) are explored through rotating table experiments and a numerical model designed to replicate the experimental apparatus. Simplified experimental and numerical models of gap-leaping systems are known to exhibit two dominant states (leaping or penetrating into the gap) as the inertia of the current competes with vorticity constraints (in this case the β-effect). These systems are also known to admit multiple states with hysteresis. To advance towards more realistic oceanographic scenarios, recent studies have explored the effects of islands, mesoscale eddies, and variable baroclinic deformation radii on the dynamical system. Here, the effect of throughflow forcing is considered, with particle tracking velocimetry (PTV) used in the lab experiments. Mean transport in or out of the gap is found to significantly shift the hysteresis range as well as change its width. Because of these transformations, changes in throughflow can induce transitions in the gap-leaping system when near a critical state (leaping-to-penetrating/ penetrating-to-leaping). Results from the study are interpreted within a nonlinear dynamical framework and various properties of the system are explored.

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C. A. Luecke, H. W. Wijesekera, E. Jarosz, D. W. Wang, J. C. Wesson, S.U.P. Jinadasa, H. J. S. Fernando, and W. J. Teague

Abstract

Long-term measurements of turbulent kinetic-energy dissipation rate (ε), and turbulent temperature-variance dissipation rate (χ T) in the thermocline, along with currents, temperature, and salinity were made at two subsurface moorings in the southern Bay of Bengal (BoB). This is a part of a major international program, conducted between July 2018 and June 2019, for investigating the role of the BoB on the monsoon intraseasonal oscillations. One mooring was located on the typical path of the Southwest Monsoon Current (SMC), and the other was in a region where the Sri Lanka Dome is typically found during the summer monsoon. Microstructure and finescale estimates of vertical diffusivity revealed the long-term subthermocline mixing patterns in the southern BoB. Enhanced turbulence and large eddy diffusivities were observed within the SMC during the passage of a subsurface-intensified anticyclonic eddy. During this time, background shear and strain appeared to influence high-frequency motions such as near-inertial waves and internal tides, leading to increased mixing. Near the Sri Lanka Dome, enhanced dissipation occurred at the margins of the cyclonic feature. Turbulent mixing was enhanced with the passage of Rossby waves and eddies. During these events, values of χ T exceeding 10−4 °C2 s−1 were recorded concurrently with ε values exceeding 10−5 W kg −1. Inferred diffusivity peaked well above background values of 10−6 m2 s−1, leading to an annually-averaged diffusivity near 10−4 m2 s−1. Turbulence appeared low throughout much of the deployment period. Most of the mixing occurred in spurts during isolated events.

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Haijin Cao, Baylor Fox-Kemper, and Zhiyou Jing

Abstract

The submesoscale energy budget is complex and remains understood only in region-by-region analyses. Based on a series of nested numerical simulations, this study investigated the submesoscale energy budget and flux in the upper ocean of the Kuroshio Extension, including some innovations for examining submesoscale energy budgets in general. The highest-resolution simulation on a ~500 m grid resolves a variety of submesoscale instabilities allowing an energetic analysis in the submesoscale range. The frequency–wavenumber spectra of vertical vorticity variance (i.e., enstrophy) and horizontal divergence variance were used to identify the scales of submesoscale flows as distinct from those of inertia-gravity waves but dominating horizontal divergence variance. Next, the energy transfers between the background scales and the submesoscale were examined. The submesoscale kinetic and potential energy (SMKE and SMPE) were mainly contained in the mixed layer and energized through both barotropic (shear production) and baroclinic (buoyancy production) routes. Averaged over the upper 50 m of ROMS2, the baroclinic transfers amounted to approximately 75% of the sources for the SMKE (3.42 × 10−9 W/kg) versus the remaining 25% (1.12 × 10−9 W/kg) via barotropic downscale KE transfers. The KE field was greatly strengthened by energy sources through the boundary—this flux is larger than the mesoscale-to-submesoscale transfers in this region. Spectral energy production, importantly, reveals upscale KE transfers at larger submesoscales and downscale KE transfers at smaller submesoscales (i.e., a transition from inverse to forward KE cascade). This study seeks to extend our understanding of the energy cycle to the submesoscale and highlight the forward KE cascade induced by upper-ocean submesoscale activities in the research domain.

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Ajitha Cyriac, Helen E. Phillips, Nathaniel L. Bindoff, Huabin Mao, and Ming Feng

Abstract

This study investigates the spatio-temporal variability of turbulent mixing in the eastern South Indian Ocean using a collection of data from EM-APEX profiling floats, shipboard CTD and microstructure profilers. The floats collected 1566 profiles of temperature, salinity and horizontal velocity data down to 1200 m over a period of about four months. A fine-scale parameterization is applied to the float and CTD data to estimate turbulent mixing. Elevated mixing is observed in the upper ocean, over bottom topography and in mesoscale eddies. Mixing is enhanced in the anticyclonic eddies due to trapped near-inertial waves within the eddy. We found that cyclonic eddies contribute to turbulent mixing in the depth range of 500 – 1000 m, which is associated with downward propagating internal waves. The mean diapycnal diffusivity over 250 – 500 m depth is O(10−6) m2 s−1 and it increases to O(10−5) m2 s−1 in 500 – 1000 m in cyclonic eddies. The turbulent mixing in this region has implications for watermass transformation and large-scale circulation. Higher diffusivity (O(10−5) m2 s−1) is observed in the Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) layer in cyclonic eddies whereas weak diffusivity is observed in the Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) layer (O(10−6) m2 s−1). Counter-intuitively, then, the SAMW watermass properties are strongly affected in cyclonic eddies whereas the AAIW layer is less affected. Comparatively high diffusivity at the location of the South Indian Countercurrent (SICC) jets suggests there are wave-mean flow interactions in addition to the wave-eddy interactions that warrant further investigation.

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Astrid Pacini, Robert S. Pickart, Isabela A. Le Bras, Fiammetta Straneo, N.P. Holliday, and M.A. Spall

Abstract

The boundary current system in the Labrador Sea plays an integral role in modulating convection in the interior basin. Four years of mooring data from the eastern Labrador Sea reveal persistent mesoscale variability in the West Greenland boundary current. Between 2014 and 2018, 197 mid-depth intensified cyclones were identified that passed the array near the 2000 m isobath. In this study, we quantify these features and show that they are the downstream manifestation of Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW) cyclones. A composite cyclone is constructed revealing an average radius of 9 km, maximum azimuthal speed of 24 cm/s, and a core propagation velocity of 27 cm/s. The core propagation velocity is significantly smaller than upstream near Denmark Strait, allowing them to trap more water. The cyclones transport a 200-m thick lens of dense water at the bottom of the water column, and increase the transport of DSOW in the West Greenland boundary current by 17% relative to the background flow. Only a portion of the features generated at Denmark Strait make it to the Labrador Sea, implying that the remainder are shed into the interior Irminger Sea, are retroflected at Cape Farewell, or dissipate. A synoptic shipboard survey east of Cape Farewell, conducted in summer 2020, captured two of these features which shed further light on their structure and timing. This is the first time DSOW cyclones have been observed in the Labrador Sea—a discovery that could have important implications for interior stratification.

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Fraser W. Goldsworth, David P. Marshall, and Helen L. Johnson

Abstract

The upper limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation draws waters with negative potential vorticity from the southern hemisphere into the northern hemisphere. The North Brazil Current is one of the cross-equatorial pathways in which this occurs: upon crossing the equator, fluid parcels must modify their potential vorticity to render them stable to symmetric instability and to merge smoothly with the ocean interior. In this work a linear stability analysis is performed on an idealized western boundary current, dynamically similar to the North Brazil Current, to identify features which are indicative of symmetric instability. Simple two-dimensional numerical models are used to verify the results of the stability analysis. The two-dimensional models and linear stability theory show that symmetric instability in meridional flows does not change when the non-traditional component of the Coriolis force is included, unlike in zonal flows. Idealized three-dimensional numerical models show anti-cyclonic barotropic eddies being spun off as the western boundary current crosses the equator. These eddies become symmetrically unstable a few degrees north of the equator, and their PV is set to zero through the action of the instability. The instability is found to have a clear fingerprint in the spatial Fourier transform of the vertical kinetic energy. An analysis of the water mass formation rates suggest that symmetric instability has a minimal effect on water mass transformation in the model calculations; however, this may be the result of unresolved dynamics, such as secondary Kelvin Helmholtz instabilities, which are important in diabatic transformation.

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Hui Zhou, Hengchang Liu, Shuwen Tan, Wenlong Yang, Yao Li, Xueqi Liu, Qiang Ren, and William K. Dewar

Abstract

The structure and variations of the North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC) in the far western Pacific Ocean during 2014-2016 are investigated using repeated in-situ hydrographic data, altimeter data, Argo data, and reanalysis data. The NECC shifted ~1 degree southward and intensified significantly with its transport exceeding 40 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3 s-1), nearly double its climatology value, during the developing phase of the 2015/16 El Niño event. Observations show that the 2015/16 El Niño exerted a comparable impact on the NECC with that of the extreme 1997/98 El Niño in the far western Pacific Ocean. Baroclinic instability provided the primary energy source for the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) in the 2015/16 El Niño, which differs from the traditional understanding of the energy source of EKE as barotropic instability in low latitude ocean. The enhanced vertical shear and the reduced density jump between the NECC layer and the subsurface North Equatorial Subsurface Current (NESC) layer renders the NECC–NESC system baroclinically unstable in the western Pacific Ocean during El Niño developing phase. The eddy-mean flow interactions here are diverse associated with various states of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

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Christopher Bladwell, Ryan M. Holmes, and Jan D. Zika

Abstract

The global water cycle is dominated by an atmospheric branch which transfers fresh water away from subtropical regions and an oceanic branch which returns that fresh water from subpolar and tropical regions. Salt content is commonly used to understand the oceanic branch because surface freshwater fluxes leave an imprint on ocean salinity. However, freshwater fluxes do not actually change the amount of salt in the ocean and – in the mean – no salt is transported meridionally by ocean circulation. To study the processes which determine ocean salinity we introduce a new variable: “internal salt” and its counterpart “internal fresh water”. Precise budgets for internal salt in salinity coordinates relate meridional and diahaline transport to surface freshwater forcing, ocean circulation and mixing, and reveal the pathway of fresh water in the ocean. We apply this framework to a 1° global ocean model. We find that in order for fresh water to be exported from the ocean’s tropical and subpolar regions to the subtropics, salt must be mixed across the salinity surfaces that bound those regions. In the tropics, this mixing is achieved by parameterized vertical mixing, along-isopycnal mixing, and numerical mixing associated with truncation errors in the model’s advection scheme, while along-isopycnal mixing dominates at high latitudes. We analyze the internal freshwater budgets of the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic Ocean basins and identify the transport pathways between them which redistribute fresh water added through precipitation, balancing asymmetries in freshwater forcing between the basins.

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J. Thomas Farrar, Theodore Durland, Steven R. Jayne, and James F. Price

Abstract

Measurements from satellite altimetry are used to show that sea-surface height (SSH) variability throughout much of the North Pacific is coherent with the SSH signal of the tropical instability waves (TIWs) that result from instabilities of the equatorial currents. This variability has regular phase patterns consistent with freely propagating barotropic Rossby waves radiating energy away from the unstable equatorial currents, and the waves clearly propagate from the equatorial region to at least 30°N. The pattern of SSH variance at TIW frequencies exhibits remarkable patchiness on scales of hundreds of kilometers, which we interpret as being due to the combined effects of wave reflection, refraction, and interference. North of 40°N, more than 6000 km from the unstable equatorial currents, the SSH field remains coherent with the near-equatorial SSH variability, but it is not as clear whether the variability at the higher latitudes is a simple result of barotropic wave radiation from the tropical instability waves. Even more distant regions, as far north as the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska and the Kamchatka Peninsula of eastern Russia, have SSH variability that is significantly coherent with the near-equatorial instabilities. The variability is not well represented in the widely used gridded SSH data product commonly referred to as the AVISO or DUACS product, and this appears to be a result of spatial variations in the filtering properties of the objective mapping scheme.

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Hossein A. Kafiabad, Jacques Vanneste, and William R. Young

Abstract

Anticyclonic vortices focus and trap near-inertial waves so that near-inertial energy levels are elevated within the vortex core. Some aspects of this process, including the nonlinear modification of the vortex by the wave, are explained by the existence of trapped near-inertial eigenmodes. These vortex eigenmodes are easily excited by an initialwave with horizontal scale much larger than that of the vortex radius. We study this process using a wave-averaged model of near-inertial dynamics and compare its theoretical predictions with numerical solutions of the three-dimensional Boussinesq equations. In the linear approximation, the model predicts the eigenmode frequencies and spatial structures, and a near-inertial wave energy signature that is characterized by an approximately time-periodic, azimuthally invariant pattern. The wave-averaged model represents the nonlinear feedback of the waves on the vortex via a wave-induced contribution to the potential vorticity that is proportional to the Laplacian of the kinetic energy density of the waves. When this is taken into account, the modal frequency is predicted to increase linearly with the energy of the initial excitation. Both linear and nonlinear predictions agree convincingly with the Boussinesq results.

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