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Kaylie Cohanim, Ken X. Zhao, and Andrew L. Stewart

Abstract

Interaction between the atmosphere and ocean in sea ice–covered regions is largely concentrated in leads, which are long, narrow openings between sea ice floes. Refreezing and brine rejection in these leads inject salt that plays a key role in maintaining the polar halocline. The injected salt forms dense plumes that subsequently become baroclinically unstable, producing submesoscale eddies that facilitate horizontal spreading of the salt anomalies. However, it remains unclear which properties of the stratification and leads most strongly influence the vertical and horizontal spreading of lead-input salt anomalies. In this study, the spread of lead-injected buoyancy anomalies by mixed layer and eddy processes are investigated using a suite of idealized numerical simulations. The simulations are complemented by dynamical theories that predict the plume convection depth, horizontal eddy transfer coefficient, and eddy kinetic energy as functions of the ambient stratification and lead properties. It is shown that vertical penetration of buoyancy anomalies is accurately predicted by a mixed layer temperature and salinity budget until the onset of baroclinic instability (~3 days). Subsequently, these buoyancy anomalies are spread horizontally by eddies. The horizontal eddy diffusivity is accurately predicted by a mixing-length scaling, with a velocity scale set by the potential energy released by the sinking salt plume and a length scale set by the deformation radius of the ambient stratification. These findings indicate that the intermittent opening of leads can efficiently populate the polar halocline with submesoscale coherent vortices with diameters of ~10 km, and they provide a step toward parameterizing their effect on the horizontal redistribution of salinity anomalies.

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Sydney Sroka and Kerry Emanuel

Abstract

The intensity of tropical cyclones is sensitive to the air–sea fluxes of enthalpy and momentum. Sea spray plays a critical role in mediating enthalpy and momentum fluxes over the ocean’s surface at high wind speeds, and parameterizing the influence of sea spray is a crucial component of any air–sea interaction scheme used for the high wind regime where sea spray is ubiquitous. Many studies have proposed parameterizations of air–sea flux that incorporate the microphysics of sea spray evaporation and the mechanics of sea spray stress. Unfortunately, there is not yet a consensus on which parameterization best represents air–sea exchange in tropical cyclones, and the different proposed parameterizations can yield substantially different tropical cyclone intensities. This paper seeks to review the developments in parameterizations of the sea spray–mediated enthalpy and momentum fluxes for the high wind speed regime and to synthesize key findings that are common across many investigations.

Open access
Ratnaksha Lele, Sarah G. Purkey, Jonathan D. Nash, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Andreas M. Thurnherr, Caitlin B. Whalen, Sabine Mecking, Gunnar Voet, and Lynne D. Talley

Abstract

The abyssal Southwest Pacific Basin has warmed significantly between 1992-2017, consistent with warming along the bottom limb of the meridional overturning circulation seen throughout the global oceans. Here we present a framework for assessing the abyssal heat budget that includes the time-dependent unsteady effects of decadal warming and direct and indirect estimates of diapycnal mixing from microscale temperature measurements and finescale parameterizations. The unsteady terms estimated from the decadalwarming rate are shown to be within a factor of 3 of the steady state terms in the abyssal heat budget for the coldest portion of the water column and therefore, cannot be ignored. We show that a reduction in the lateral heat flux for the coldest temperature classes compensated by an increase in warmer waters advected into the basin has important implications for the heat balance and diffusive heat fluxes in the basin. Finally, vertical diffusive heat fluxes are estimated in different ways: using the newly available CTD-mounted microscale temperature measurements, a finescale strain parameterization, and a vertical kinetic energy parameterization from data along the P06 transect along 32.5°S. The unsteady-state abyssal heat budget for the basin shows closure within error estimates, demonstrating that (i) unsteady terms have become consequential for the heat balance in the isotherms closest to the ocean bottom and (ii) direct and indirect estimates from full depth GO-SHIP hydrographic transects averaged over similarly large spatial and temporal scales can capture the basin-averaged abyssal mixing needed to close the deep overturning circulation.

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He Wang, Julie L. McClean, and Lynne D. Talley

Abstract

The Arabian Sea, influenced by the Indian monsoon, has many unique features including its basin scale seasonally reversing surface circulation and the Great Whirl, a seasonal anti-cyclonic system appearing during the southwest monsoon close to the western boundary. To establish a comprehensive dynamical picture of the Arabian Sea, we utilize numerical model output and design a full vorticity budget that includes a fully-decomposed nonlinear term. The ocean general circulation model has 0.1° resolution and is mesoscale eddy-resolving in the region. In the western boundary current system, we highlight the role of nonlinear eddies in the life cycle of the Great Whirl. The nonlinear eddy term is of leading order importance in this feature’s vorticity balance. Specifically, it contributes to the Great Whirl’s persistence in boreal fall after the weakening of the southwesterly winds. In the open ocean, Sverdrup dynamics and annual Rossby waves are found to dominate the vorticity balance; the latter is considered as a key factor in the formation of the Great Whirl and the sea-sonal reversal of the western boundary current. In addition, we discuss different forms of vertically-integrated vorticity equations in the model and argue that the bottom pressure torque term can be interpreted analogously as friction in the western boundary and vortex stretching in the open ocean.

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Gerardo Hernández-Dueñas, M.-Pascale Lelong, and Leslie M. Smith

Abstract

Submesoscale lateral transport of Lagrangian particles in pycnocline conditions is investigated by means of idealized numerical simulations with reduced-interaction models. Using a projection technique, the models are formulated in terms of wave-mode and vortical-mode nonlinear interactions, and they range in complexity from full Boussinesq to waves-only and vortical-modes-only (QG) models. We find that, on these scales, most of the dispersion is done by vortical motions, but waves cannot be discounted because they play an important, albeit indirect, role. In particular, we show that waves are instrumental in filling out the spectra of vortical-mode energy at smaller scales through non-resonant vortex-wave-wave triad interactions. We demonstrate that a richer spectrum of vortical modes in the presence of waves enhances the effective lateral diffusivity, compared to QG. Waves also transfer energy upscale to vertically sheared horizontal flows which are a key ingredient for internal-wave shear dispersion. In the waves-only model, the dispersion rate is an order of magnitude smaller and is attributed entirely to internal-wave shear dispersion.

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Sean R. Haney, Alexandra J. Simpson, Jacqueline M. McSweeney, Amy F. Waterhouse, Merrick C. Haller, James A. Lerczak, John A. Barth, Luc Lenain, André Palóczy, Kate Adams, and Jennifer A. MacKinnon

Abstract

The ocean is home to many different submesoscale phenomena, including internal waves, fronts, and gravity currents. Each of these processes entail complex nonlinear dynamics, even in isolation. Here we present shipboard, moored, and remote observations of a submesoscale gravity current front created by a shoaling internal tidal bore in the coastal ocean. The internal bore is observed to flatten as it shoals, leaving behind a gravity current front that propagates significantly slower than the bore. We posit that the generation and separation of the front from the bore is related to particular stratification ahead of the bore, which allows the bore to reach the maximum possible internal wave speed. After the front is calved from the bore, it is observed to propagate as a gravity current for ≈4 hours, with associated elevated turbulent dissipation rates. A strong cross-shore gradient of along-shore velocity creates enhanced vertical vorticity (Rossby number ≈ 40) that remains locked with the front. Lateral shear instabilities develop along the front and may hasten its demise.

Open access
Yuan-Zheng Lu, Xian-Rong Cen, Shuang-Xi Guo, Ling Qu, Peng-Qi Huang, Xiao-Dong Shang, and Sheng-Qi Zhou

Abstract

The nominal spatial distribution of diapycnal mixing in the South China Sea (SCS) is obtained with Thorpe-scale analysis from 2004 to 2020. The inferred dissipation rate ε and diapycnal diffusivity Kz between 100 and 1500 m indicated that the strongest mixing occurred in the Luzon Strait and Dongsha Plateau regions, with ε ~ 3.0 × 10-8 W/kg (εmax = 5.3 × 10-6 W/kg) and Kz ~ 3.5 × 10-4 m2/s (Kz max = 4.2 = 10-2 m2/s). The weakest mixing occurred in the thermocline of the central basin, with ε ~ 6.2 × 10-10 W/kg and Kz ~ 3.7 × 10-6 m2/s. The ε and Kz in the continental slope indicated that the mixing in the northern part [O(10-8) W/kg, O(10-4) m2/s] was comparatively stronger than that in the Xisha and Nansha regions [O(10-9) W/kg, O(10-5) m2/s]. The Kz in the continental slope region (200–2000 m) decayed at a closed rate from the ocean bottom to the main thermocline when the measured depth D was normalized by the ocean depth H as D/H, whether in the shallow or deep oceans. The diapycnal diffusivity was parameterized as Kz = 3.3 × 10−4 (1 + 1D/H0.22)−2 − 6.0 × 10−6 m2/s. The vertically integrated energy dissipation was nominally as 15.8 mW/m2 for all data and 25.6 mW/m2 for data at stations H < 2000 m. This was about one order higher than that in the open oceans (3.0–3.3 mW/m2), which confirmed the active mixing state in the SCS.

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Yunwei Yan, Lei Zhang, Xiangzhou Song, Guihua Wang, and Changlin Chen

Abstract

Diurnal variation in surface latent heat flux (LHF) and the effects of diurnal variations in LHF-related variables on the climatological LHF are examined using observations from the Global Tropical Moored Buoy Array. The estimated amplitude of the climatological diurnal LHF over the Indo-Pacific warm pool and the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic cold tongues is remarkable, with maximum values exceeding 20.0 W m−2. Diurnal variability of sea surface skin temperature (SSTskin) is the primary contributor to the diurnal LHF amplitude. Because the diurnal SSTskin amplitude has an inverse relationship with surface wind speed over the tropical oceans, an inverse spatial pattern between the diurnal LHF amplitude and surface wind speed results. Resolving diurnal variations in the SSTskin and wind improves the estimate of the climatological LHF by properly capturing the daytime SSTskin and daily mean wind speed, respectively. The diurnal SSTskin-associated contribution is large over the warm pool and equatorial cold tongues where low wind speeds tend to cause strong diurnal SSTskin warming, while the magnitude associated with the diurnal winds is large over the highly dynamic environment of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. The total diurnal contribution is about 9.0 W m−2 on average over the buoy sites. There appears to be a power function (linear) relationship between the diurnal SSTskin-associated (wind-associated) contribution and surface mean wind speed (wind speed enhancement from diurnal variability). The total contribution from diurnal variability can be estimated accurately from high-frequency surface wind measurements using these relationships.

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Zhumin Lu, Guihua Wang, and Xiaodong Shang

Abstract

As a key to modulate the negative feedback to tropical cyclone (TC) intensity, the TC-induced inner-core sea surface cooling (SSCIC) is poorly understood. Using a linear two-layer theory and OGCM experiments, this study illustrates that the pattern of the inner-core mixing can be well interpreted by the wind-driven currents in the mixed layer (ML). This interpretation is based on: 1) the mixing is triggered by the ML bulk shear instability; 2) the lag of upwelling makes the inner-core bulk shear equivalent to the inner-core wind-driven currents. Overall, the patterns of the inner-core bulk shear and mixing resemble the crescent body of a sickle. As an accumulative result of mixing, the SSCIC is clearly weaker than the maximum cold wake because of the weaker mixing ahead of the inner core and nearly zero mixing in a part of the inner core. The SSCIC induced by a rectilinear-track TC is mainly dominated by the inner-core mixing. Only for a slow-moving case, upwelling and horizontal advection can make minor contributions to the SSCIC by incorporating them with mixing. The SSCIC strength is inversely proportional to the moving speed, suggesting the mixing time rather than the mixing strength dominates the SSCIC. Despite inability in treating the mixing strength, this study elucidates the fundamental dynamical mechanisms of SSCIC, especially emphasizes the different roles of mixing, upwelling and horizontal advection for fast- and slow-moving TCs, and thus provides a good start point to understand SSCIC.

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Delphine Hypolite, Leonel Romero, James C. McWilliams, and Daniel P. Dauhajre

Abstract

A set of realistic coastal simulations in California allows for the exploration of surface gravity wave effects on currents (WEC) in an active submesoscale current regime. We use a new method that takes into account the full surface gravity wave spectrum and produces larger Stokes drift than the monochromatic peak-wave approximation. We investigate two high wave events lasting several days — one from a remotely generated swell and another associated with local wind-generated waves — and perform a systematic comparison between solutions with and without WEC at two submesoscale-resolving horizontal grid resolutions (dx = 270 m and 100 m). WEC results in the enhancement of open-ocean surface density and velocity gradients when the averaged significant wave height H S is relatively large (> 4.2m). For smaller waves, WEC is a minor effect overall. For the remote swell (strong waves and weak winds), WEC maintains submesoscale structures and accentuates the cyclonic vorticity and horizontal convergence skewness of submesoscale fronts and filaments. The vertical enstrophy ζ 2 budget in cyclonic regions (ζ/f > 2) reveals enhanced vertical shear and enstrophy production via vortex tilting and stretching. Wind-forced waves also enhance surface gradients, up to the point where they generate a small-submesoscale roll-cell pattern with high vorticity and divergence that extends vertically through the entire mixed layer. The emergence of these roll-cells results in a buoyancy gradient sink near the surface that causes a modest reduction in the typically large submesoscale density gradients.

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