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  • In Honor of Joseph Pedlosky x
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Baylor Fox-Kemper and Raffaele Ferrari

Abstract

The time-mean effects of eddies are studied in a model based on the Parsons–Veronis–Huang–Flierl models of the wind-driven gyre. Much of the analysis used for the steady solutions carries over if the model is cast in terms of the thickness-weighted mean velocity, because then mass transport is nondivergent in the absence of diabatic forcing. The model exemplifies the use of residual mean theory to simplify analysis.

A result of the analysis is a boundary layer width in the case of a rapid upper-layer flow and weak lower-layer flow. This boundary layer width is comparable to an eddy mixing length when the typical eddy velocity is taken to be the long Rossby wave phase speed.

Further analysis of the model illustrates important aspects of eddy behavior, model sensitivity to eddy fluxes, and model sensitivity to frictional parameters.

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Onno Bokhove and Vijaya Ambati

Abstract

Idealized laboratory experiments reveal the existence of forced–dissipative hybrid Rossby-shelf modes. The laboratory ocean consists of a deeper ocean (accommodating basin-scale Rossby modes) and a coastal step shelf (accommodating trapped shelf modes). Planetary Rossby modes are mimicked in the laboratory via a uniform topographic slope in the north–south direction. Hybrid modes are found as linear modes in numerical calculations, and similar streamfunction patterns exist in streak photography of the rotating tank experiments. These numerical calculations are based on depth-averaged potential vorticity dynamics with Ekman forcing and damping. Preliminary nonlinear calculations explore the deficiencies observed between reality and the linear solutions. The aim of the work is twofold: to show that idealized hybrid Rossby-shelf modes exist in laboratory experiments and to contribute in a general sense to the discussion on the coupling and energy exchange associated with hybrid modes between shallow coastal seas and deep-ocean basins.

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Yafang Zhong and Zhengyu Liu

Abstract

Previous analyses of the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) standard integration have revealed pronounced multidecadal variability in the Pacific climate system. The purpose of the present work is to investigate physical mechanism underlying this Pacific multidecadal variability (PMV). To better isolate the mechanism that selects the long multidecadal time scale for the PMV, a few specifically designed sensitivity experiments are carried out. When the propagating Rossby waves are blocked in the subtropics from the midbasin, the PMV remains outstanding. In contrast, when the Rossby waves are blocked beyond the subtropics across the entire North Pacific, the PMV is virtually suppressed. It suggests that the PMV relies on propagating Rossby waves in the subpolar Pacific, whereas those in the subtropics are not critical.

A novel mechanism of PMV is advanced based on a more comprehensive analysis, which is characterized by a crucial role of the subpolar North Pacific Ocean. The multidecadal ocean temperature and salinity anomalies may originate from the subsurface of the subpolar North Pacific because of the wave adjustment to the preceding basin-scale wind curl forcing. The anomalies then ascend to the surface and are amplified through local temperature–salinity convective feedback. Along the southward Oyashio, these anomalies travel to the Kuroshio Extension (KOE) region and are further intensified through a similar convective feedback. The oceanic temperature anomaly in the KOE is able to feed back to the large-scale atmospheric circulation, inducing a wind curl anomaly over the subpolar North Pacific, which in turn generates anomalous oceanic circulation and causes temperature and salinity variability in the subpolar subsurface. Thereby, a closed loop of PMV is established in the form of an extratropical delayed oscillator. The phase transition of PMV is driven by the delayed negative feedback that resides in the wave adjustment of the subpolar North Pacific via propagating Rossby waves, whereas the convective positive feedback provides the growth mechanism. A significant role of salinity variability is unveiled in both the delayed negative feedback and convective positive feedback.

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Paola Cessi and Christopher L. Wolfe

Abstract

It is demonstrated that eddy fluxes of buoyancy at the eastern and western boundaries maintain alongshore buoyancy gradients along the coast. Eddy fluxes arise near the eastern and western boundaries because on both coasts buoyancy gradients normal to the boundary are strong. The eddy fluxes are accompanied by mean vertical flows that take place in narrow boundary layers next to the coast where the geostrophic constraint is broken. These ageostrophic cells have a velocity component normal to the coast that balances the geostrophic mean velocity. It is shown that the dynamics in these thin ageostrophic boundary layers can be replaced by effective boundary conditions for the interior flow, relating the eddy flux of buoyancy at the seaward edge of the boundary layers to the buoyancy gradient along the coast. These effective boundary conditions are applied to a model of the thermocline linearized around a mean stratification and a state of rest. The linear model parameterizes the eddy fluxes of buoyancy as isopycnal diffusion. The linear model produces horizontal gradients of buoyancy along the eastern coast on a vertical scale that depends on both the vertical diffusivity and the eddy diffusivity. The buoyancy field of the linear model agrees very well with the mean state of an eddy-resolving computation. Because the east–west difference in buoyancy is related to the zonally integrated meridional velocity, the linear model successfully predicts the meridional overturning circulation.

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J. A. Whitehead

Abstract

As a driving parameter is slowly altered, thermohaline ocean circulation models show either a smooth evolution of a mode of flow or an abrupt transition of temperature and salinity fields from one mode to another. An abrupt transition might occur at one value or over a range of the driving parameter. The latter has hysteresis because the mode in this range depends on the history of the driving parameter. Although assorted ocean circulation models exhibit abrupt transitions, such transitions have not been directly observed in the ocean. Therefore, laboratory experiments have been conducted to seek and observe actual (physical) abrupt thermohaline transitions. An experiment closely duplicating Stommel’s box model possessed abrupt transitions in temperature and salinity with distinct hysteresis. Two subsequent experiments with more latitude for internal circulation in the containers possessed abrupt transitions over a much smaller range of hysteresis. Therefore, a new experiment with even more latitude for internal circulation was designed and conducted. A large tank of constantly renewed freshwater at room temperature had a smaller cavity in the bottom heated from below with saltwater steadily pumped in. The cavity had either a salt mode, consisting of the cavity filled with heated salty water with an interface at the cavity top, or a temperature mode, in which the heat and saltwater were removed from the cavity by convection. There was no measurable hysteresis between the two modes. Possible reasons for such small hysteresis are discussed.

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R. M. Samelson

Abstract

A reduced-gravity model is presented of the warm-water branch of the middepth meridional overturning circulation in a rectangular basin with a circumpolar connection. The model describes the balance between production of warm water by Ekman advection across the circumpolar current, dissipation of warm water by eddy fluxes southward across the current, and the net production or dissipation of warm water by diabatic processes north of the current. The results emphasize the role of the eastern boundary condition in setting the thermocline structure north of the current and the nonlinear interactions between wind forcing, eddy fluxes, and diabatic mixing, which together control the structure and amplitude of the model meridional overturning circulation. Solutions are shown to exist in which the northward Ekman transport across the circumpolar current is completely compensated by southward eddy fluxes and the meridional overturning north of the current is entirely driven by diabatic forcing and interior upwelling through the base of the layer. Other solutions are shown to exist in which the interior upwelling into the warm layer at midlatitudes is negligible and the meridional overturning circulation consists of a continuous cell that carried the fluid delivered by the northward Ekman transport across the circumpolar current through midlatitudes to the Northern Hemisphere subpolar gyre, where it cools and returns to depth. The results emphasize that the coupled elements of wind driving, eddy fluxes, and diabatic processes are inextricably intertwined in the middepth meridional overturning circulation.

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Carl Wunsch and Patrick Heimbach

Abstract

The zonally integrated meridional and vertical velocities as well as the enthalpy transports and fluxes in a least squares adjusted general circulation model are used to estimate the top-to-bottom oceanic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and its variability from 1992 to 2006. A variety of simple theories all produce time scales suggesting that the mid- and high-latitude oceans should respond to atmospheric driving only over several decades. In practice, little change is seen in the MOC and associated heat transport except very close to the sea surface, at depth near the equator, and in parts of the Southern Ocean. Variability in meridional transports in both volume and enthalpy is dominated by the annual cycle and secondarily by the semiannual cycle, particularly in the Southern Ocean. On time scales longer than a year, the solution exhibits small trends with complicated global spatial patterns. Apart from a net uptake of heat from the atmosphere (forced by the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis, which produces net ocean heating), the origins of the meridional transport trends are not distinguishable and are likely a combination of model disequilibrium, shifts in the observing system, other trends (real or artificial) in the meteorological fields, and/or true oceanic secularities. None of the results, however, supports an inference of oceanic circulation shifts taking the system out of the range in which changes are more than small perturbations. That the oceanic observations do not conflict with an apparent excess heat uptake from the atmosphere implies a continued undersampling of the global ocean, even in the upper layers.

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K. Shafer Smith and John Marshall

Abstract

Satellite altimetric observations of the ocean reveal surface pressure patterns in the core of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) that propagate downstream (eastward) but slower than the mean surface current by about 25%. The authors argue that these observations are suggestive of baroclinically unstable waves that have a steering level at a depth of about 1 km. Detailed linear stability calculations using a hydrographic atlas indeed reveal a steering level in the ACC near the depth implied by the altimetric observations. Calculations using a nonlinear model forced by the mean shear and stratification observed close to the core of the ACC, coinciding with a position where mooring data and direct eddy flux measurements are available, reveal a similar picture, albeit with added details. When eddy fluxes are allowed to adjust the mean state, computed eddy kinetic energy and eddy stress are close to observed magnitudes with steering levels between 1 and 1.5 km, broadly consistent with observations.

An important result of this study is that the vertical structure of the potential vorticity (PV) eddy diffusivity is strongly depth dependent, implying that the diffusivity for PV and buoyancy are very different from one another. It is shown that the flow can simultaneously support a PV diffusivity peaking at 5000 m2 s−1 or so near the middepth steering level and a buoyancy diffusivity that is much smaller, of order 1000 m2 s−1, exhibiting less vertical structure. An effective diffusivity calculation, using an advected and diffused tracer transformed into area coordinates, confirms that the PV diffusivity more closely reflects the mixing properties of the flow than does the buoyancy diffusivity, and points explicitly to the need for separating tracer and buoyancy flux parameterizations in coarse-resolution general circulation models. Finally, implications for the eddy-driven circulation of the ACC are discussed.

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Michael A. Spall

Abstract

The issue of downwelling resulting from surface buoyancy loss in boundary currents is addressed using a high-resolution, nonhydrostatic numerical model. It is shown that the net downwelling is determined by the change in the mixed layer density along the boundary. For configurations in which the density on the boundary increases in the direction of Kelvin wave propagation, there is a net downwelling within the domain. For cases in which the density decreases in the direction of Kelvin wave propagation, cooling results in a net upwelling within the domain. Symmetric instability within the mixed layer drives an overturning cell in the interior, but it does not contribute to the net vertical motion. The net downwelling is determined by the geostrophic flow toward the boundary and is carried downward in a very narrow boundary layer of width E 1/3, where E is the Ekman number. For the calculations here, this boundary layer is O(100 m) wide. A simple model of the mixed layer temperature that balances horizontal advection with surface cooling is used to predict the net downwelling and its dependence on external parameters. This model shows that the net sinking rate within the domain depends not only on the amount of heat loss at the surface but also on the Coriolis parameter, the mixed layer depth (or underlying stratification), and the horizontal velocity. These results indicate that if one is to correctly represent the buoyancy-forced downwelling in general circulation models, then it is crucial to accurately represent the velocity and mixed layer depth very close to the boundary. These results also imply that processes that lead to weak mixing within a few kilometers of the boundary, such as ice formation or freshwater runoff, can severely limit the downwelling forced by surface cooling, even if there is strong heat loss and convection farther offshore.

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