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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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Peng Wang, James C. McWilliams, and Yusuke Uchiyama

Abstract

Coastal fronts impact cross-shelf exchange of materials, such as plankton and nutrients, which are important to the ecosystems in continental shelves. Here using numerical simulation we demonstrate a nearshore front induced by wave streaming. Wave streaming is a bottom Eulerian current along the surface wave direction, and it is caused by the wave bottom dissipation. Wave streaming drives a Lagrangian overturning circulation in the inner shelf and pumps up deep and cold water into the overturning circulation. The water inside the overturning circulation is quickly mixed and cooled because of the wave streaming-enhanced viscosity. However, the offshore water outside the overturning circulation remains stratified and warmer. Hence, a front develops between the water inside and outside the overturning circulation. The front is unstable and generates submesoscale shelf eddies, which lead the offshore transport across the front. This study presents a new mechanism for coastal frontogenesis.

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Chiung-Yin Chang and Malte F. Jansen

Abstract

Although the reconfiguration of the abyssal overturning circulation has been argued to be a salient feature of Earth’s past climate changes, our understanding of the physical mechanisms controlling its strength remains limited. In particular, existing scaling theories disagree on the relative importance of the dynamics in the Southern Ocean versus the dynamics in the basins to the north. In this study, we systematically investigate these theories and compare them with a set of numerical simulations generated from an ocean general circulation model with idealized geometry, designed to capture only the basic ingredients considered by the theories. It is shown that the disagreement between existing theories can be partially explained by the fact that the overturning strengths measured in the channel and in the basin scale distinctly with the external parameters, including surface buoyancy loss, diapycnal diffusivity, wind stress, and eddy diffusivity. The overturning in the re-entrant channel, which represents the Southern Ocean, is found to be sensitive to all these parameters, in addition to a strong dependence on bottom topography. By contrast, the basin overturning varies with the integrated surface buoyancy loss rate and diapycnal diffusivity but is mostly unaffected by winds and channel topography. The simulated parameter dependence of the basin overturning can be described by a scaling theory that is based only on basin dynamics.

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Lu Han, Harvey Seim, John Bane, Robert E. Todd, and Mike Muglia

Abstract

Carbon-rich Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) and South Atlantic Bight (SAB) shelf waters typically converge on the continental shelf near Cape Hatteras. Both are often exported to the adjacent open ocean in this region. During a survey of the region in mid-January 2018, there was no sign of shelf water export at the surface. Instead, a subsurface layer of shelf water with high chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen was observed at the edge of the Gulf Stream east of Cape Hatteras. Strong cooling over the MAB and SAB shelves in early January led to shelf waters being denser than offshore surface waters. Driven by the density gradient, the denser shelf waters cascaded beneath the Gulf Stream and were subsequently entrained into the Gulf Stream, as they were advected northeastward. Underwater glider observations 80 km downstream of the export location captured 0.44 Sv of shelf waters transported along the edge of the Gulf Stream in January 2018. In total, as much as 7×106 kg of carbon was exported from the continental shelf to a greater depth in the open ocean during this 5-day-long cascading event. Earlier observations of near-bottom temperature and salinity at a depth of 230 m captured several multiday episodes of shelf water at a location that was otherwise dominated by Gulf Stream water, indicating that the January 2018 cascading event was not unique. Cascading is an important, yet little-studied pathway of carbon export and sequestration at Cape Hatteras.

Open access
David A. Williams, David M. Schultz, Kevin J. Horsburgh, and Chris W. Hughes

Abstract

Meteotsunamis are shallow-water waves that, despite often being small (~0.3 m), can cause damage, injuries, and fatalities due to relatively strong currents (>1 m s−1). Previous case studies, modeling, and localized climatologies have indicated that dangerous meteotsunamis can occur across northwest Europe. Using 71 tide gauges across northwest Europe between 2010 and 2017, a regional climatology was made to understand the typical sizes, times, and atmospheric systems that generate meteotsunamis. A total of 349 meteotsunamis (54.0 meteotsunamis per year) were identified with 0.27–0.40-m median wave heights. The largest waves (~1 m high) were measured in France and the Republic of Ireland. Most meteotsunamis were identified in winter (43%–59%), and the fewest identified meteotsunamis occurred in either spring or summer (0%–15%). There was a weak diurnal signal, with most meteotsunami identifications between 1200 and 1859 UTC (30%) and the fewest between 0000 and 0659 UTC (23%). Radar-derived precipitation was used to identify and classify the morphologies of mesoscale precipitating weather systems occurring within 6 h of each meteotsunami. Most mesoscale atmospheric systems were quasi-linear systems (46%) or open-cellular convection (33%), with some nonlinear clusters (17%) and a few isolated cells (4%). These systems occurred under westerly geostrophic flow, with Proudman resonance possible in 43 out of 45 selected meteotsunamis. Because most meteotsunamis occur on cold winter days, with precipitation, and in large tides, wintertime meteotsunamis may be missed by eyewitnesses, helping to explain why previous observationally based case studies of meteotsunamis are documented predominantly in summer.

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Kristin L. Zeiden, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Matthew H. Alford, Daniel L. Rudnick, Gunnar Voet, and Hemantha Wijesekera

Abstract

An array of moorings deployed off the coast of Palau is used to characterize submesoscale vorticity generated by broadband upper-ocean flows around the island. Palau is a steep-sided archipelago lying in the path of strong zonal geostrophic currents, but tides and inertial oscillations are energetic as well. Vorticity is correspondingly broadband, with both mean and variance O(f) in a surface and subsurface layer (where f is the local Coriolis frequency). However, while subinertial vorticity is linearly related to the incident subinertial current, the relationship between superinertial velocity and superinertial vorticity is weak. Instead, there is a strong nonlinear relationship between subinertial velocity and superinertial vorticity. A key observation of this study is that during periods of strong westward flow, vorticity in the tidal bands increases by an order of magnitude. Empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of velocity show this nonstationary, superinertial vorticity variance is due to eddy motion at the scale of the array. Comparison of kinetic energy and vorticity time series suggest that lateral shear against the island varies with the subinertial flow, while tidal currents lead to flow reversals inshore of the recirculating wake and possibly eddy shedding. This is a departure from the idealized analog typically drawn on in island wake studies: a cylinder in a steady flow. In that case, eddy formation occurs at a frequency dependent on the scale of the obstacle and strength of the flow alone. The observed tidal formation frequency likely modulates the strength of submesoscale wake eddies and thus their dynamic relationship to the mesoscale wake downstream of Palau.

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Cátia C. Azevedo, Carolina M. L. Camargo, José Alves, and Rui M. A. Caldeira

Abstract

The interaction between the incoming winds and high mountainous islands produces a wind-sheltered area on the leeward side, known as the atmospheric wake. In addition to weaker winds, the wake is also characterized by a clearing of clouds, resulting in intense solar radiation reaching the sea surface. As a consequence, a warm oceanic wake forms on the leeward side. This phenomenon, detectable from space, can extend 100 km offshore of Madeira, where the sea surface temperature can be 4°C higher than the surrounding oceanic waters. This study considers in situ, remote sensing, and ocean circulation model data to investigate the effects of the warm wake in the vertical structure of the upper ocean. To characterize the convective layer (25–70 m) developing within the oceanic wake, 200 vertical profiles of temperature, salinity, and turbulence were considered, together with the computation of the density ratio and Turner angle. In comparison with the open-ocean water column, wake waters are strongly stratified with respect to temperature, although highly unstable. The vertical profiles of salinity show distinct water parcels that sink and/or rise as a response to the intense heat fluxes. During the night, the ocean surface cools, leading to the stretching of the mixed layer, which was replicated by the ocean circulation model. In exposed, nonwake regions, however, particularly on the southeast and north coasts of the island, the stretching of the mixed layer is not detectable.

Open access
James Morison, Ron Kwok, Suzanne Dickinson, Roger Andersen, Cecilia Peralta-Ferriz, David Morison, Ignatius Rigor, Sarah Dewey, and John Guthrie

Abstract

Arctic Ocean surface circulation change should not be viewed as the strength of the anticyclonic Beaufort Gyre. While the Beaufort Gyre is a dominant feature of average Arctic Ocean surface circulation, empirical orthogonal function analysis of dynamic height (1950–89) and satellite altimetry–derived dynamic ocean topography (2004–19) show the primary pattern of variability in its cyclonic mode is dominated by a depression of the sea surface and cyclonic surface circulation on the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean. Changes in surface circulation after Arctic Oscillation (AO) maxima in 1989 and 2007–08 and after an AO minimum in 2010 indicate the cyclonic mode is forced by the AO with a lag of about 1 year. Associated with a one standard deviation increase in the average AO starting in the early 1990s, Arctic Ocean surface circulation underwent a cyclonic shift evidenced by increased spatial-average vorticity. Under increased AO, the cyclonic mode complex also includes increased export of sea ice and near-surface freshwater, a changed path of Eurasian runoff, a freshened Beaufort Sea, and weakened cold halocline layer that insulates sea ice from Atlantic water heat, an impact compounded by increased Atlantic Water inflow and cyclonic circulation at depth. The cyclonic mode’s connection with the AO is important because the AO is a major global scale climate index predicted to increase with global warming. Given the present bias in concentration of in situ measurements in the Beaufort Gyre and Transpolar Drift, a coordinated effort should be made to better observe the cyclonic mode.

Open access
Xiaoting Yang, Eli Tziperman, and Kevin Speer

Abstract

Concentrated poleward flows along eastern boundaries between 2- and 4-km depth in the southeast Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans have been observed, and appear in data assimilation products and regional model simulations at sufficiently high horizontal resolution, but their dynamics are still not well understood. We study the local dynamics of these deep eastern boundary currents (DEBCs) using idealized GCM simulations, and we use a conceptual vorticity model for the DEBCs to gain additional insights into the dynamics. Over most of the zonal width of the DEBCs, the vorticity balance is between meridional advection of planetary vorticity and vortex stretching, which is an interior-like vorticity balance. Over a thinner layer very close to the eastern boundary, a balance between vorticity tendencies due to friction and stretching that rapidly decay away from the boundary is found. Over the part of the DEBC that is governed by an interior-like vorticity balance, vertical stretching is driven by both the topography and temperature diffusion, while in the thinner boundary layer, it is driven instead by parameterized horizontal temperature mixing. The topographic driving acts via a cross-isobath flow that leads to stretching and thus to vorticity forcing for the concentrated DEBCs.

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José Ochoa, Vicente Ferreira-Bartrina, Julio Candela, Julio Sheinbaum, Manuel López, Paula Pérez-Brunius, Sharon Herzka, and Rainer M.W. Amon

Abstract

A key consequence in climate change is the warming of deep waters, away from the faster warming rates of near-surface subtropical and tropical waters. Since surface and near-surface oceanic temperatures have been measured far more frequently in time and space than deep waters (>2000 m), deep measurements become quite valuable. Semi-enclosed basins, such as the Gulf of Mexico, are of particular interest as the waters below sills that connect with the neighboring oceans have residence times much longer than upper layers. Within the western Gulf of Mexico, near-bottom measurements at ~3500-m depths at four sites show a stable linear warming trend of ~16 ± 2 m°C decade−1 for the period 2007–18, and CTD data from eight oceanographic cruises occurring from 2003 to 2019 show a trend of ~18 ± ~2 m°C decade−1 from the bottom to ~2000 m below the surface. The bottom geothermal heat flux is a contributing factor to be considered in the warming and renewal of such waters, but it has not changed over millennia and is therefore unlikely to be the cause of the observed trend. The densest waters that spill into the Gulf of Mexico, over the Yucatan Channel sill, must mix substantially during their descent and in the near-bottom interior, losing their extreme values. A simple box model connects the observed warming, well within the Gulf interior, with that expected in the densest waters that spill from the North Atlantic into the Cayman Basin through Windward Passage and suggests that the source waters at the entrance to the Caribbean have been warming for at least 100 years.

Open access