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Arjun Jagannathan, Kaushik Srinivasan, James C. McWilliams, M. Jeroen Molemaker, and Andrew L. Stewart

Abstract

Current–topography interactions in the ocean give rise to eddies spanning a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. The latest modeling efforts indicate that coastal and underwater topography are important generation sites for submesoscale coherent vortices (SCVs), characterized by horizontal scales of O(0.110)km. Using idealized, submesoscale and bottom boundary layer (BBL)-resolving simulations and adopting an integrated vorticity balance formulation, we quantify precisely the role of BBLs in the vorticity generation process. In particular, we show that vorticity generation on topographic slopes is attributable primarily to the torque exerted by the vertical divergence of stress at the bottom. We refer to this as the bottom stress divergence torque (BSDT). BSDT is a fundamentally nonconservative torque that appears as a source term in the integrated vorticity budget and is to be distinguished from the more familiar bottom stress curl (BSC). It is closely connected to the bottom pressure torque (BPT) via the horizontal momentum balance at the bottom and is in fact shown to be the dominant component of BPT in solutions with a well-resolved BBL. This suggests an interpretation of BPT as the sum of a viscous, vorticity-generating component (BSDT) and an inviscid, “flow-turning” component. Companion simulations without bottom drag illustrate that although vorticity generation can still occur through the inviscid mechanisms of vortex stretching and tilting, the wake eddies tend to have weaker circulation, be substantially less energetic, and have smaller spatial scales.

Open access
Edward J. Walsh, C. W. Fairall, and Ivan PopStefanija

Abstract

The airborne NOAA Wide Swath Radar Altimeter (WSRA) is a 16-GHz digital beamforming radar altimeter that produces a topographic map of the waves as the aircraft advances. The wave topography is transformed by a two-dimensional FFT into directional wave spectra. The WSRA operates unattended on the aircraft and provides continuous real-time reporting of several data products: 1) significant wave height; 2) directional ocean wave spectra; 3) the wave height, wavelength, and direction of propagation of the primary and secondary wave fields; 4) rainfall rate; and 5) sea surface mean square slope (mss). During hurricane flights the data products are transmitted in real-time from the NOAA WP-3D aircraft through a satellite data link to a ground station and on to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for use by the forecasters for intensity projections and incorporation in hurricane wave models. The WSRA is the only instrument that can quickly provide high-density measurements of the complex wave topography over a large area surrounding the eye of the storm.

Open access
Jonathan A. Baker, Andrew J. Watson, and Geoffrey K. Vallis

Abstract

The response of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) to changes in Southern Ocean (SO) zonal wind forcing and Pacific Ocean basin vertical diffusivity is investigated under varying buoyancy forcings, corresponding to “warm,” “present day,” and “cold” states, in a two-basin general circulation model connected by a southern circumpolar channel. We find that the Atlantic MOC (AMOC) strengthens with increased SO wind stress or diffusivity in the model Pacific, under all buoyancy forcings. The sensitivity of the AMOC to wind stress increases as the buoyancy forcing is varied from a warm to a present-day or cold state, whereas it is most sensitive to the Pacific diffusivity in a present-day or warm state. Similarly, the AMOC is more sensitive to buoyancy forcing over the Southern Ocean under reduced wind stress or enhanced Pacific diffusivity. These results arise because of the increased importance of the Pacific pathway in the warmer climates, giving an increased linkage between the basins and so the opportunity for the diffusivity in the Pacific to affect the overturning in the Atlantic. In cooler states, such as in glacial climates, the two basins are largely decoupled and the wind strength over the SO is the primary determinant of the AMOC strength. Both wind- and diffusively driven upwelling sustain the AMOC in the warmer (present day) state. Changes in SO wind stress alone do not shoal the AMOC to resemble that observed at the last glacial maximum; changes in the buoyancy forcing are also needed to decouple the two basins.

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Lixin Qu, Leif N. Thomas, and Robert D. Hetland

Abstract

This study describes a specific type of critical layer for near-inertial waves (NIWs) that forms when isopycnals run parallel to sloping bathymetry. Upon entering this slantwise critical layer, the group velocity of the waves decreases to zero and the NIWs become trapped and amplified, which can enhance mixing. A realistic simulation of anticyclonic eddies on the Texas–Louisiana shelf reveals that such critical layers can form where the eddies impinge onto the sloping bottom. Velocity shear bands in the simulation indicate that wind-forced NIWs are radiated downward from the surface in the eddies, bend upward near the bottom, and enter critical layers over the continental shelf, resulting in inertially modulated enhanced mixing. Idealized simulations designed to capture this flow reproduce the wave propagation and enhanced mixing. The link between the enhanced mixing and wave trapping in the slantwise critical layer is made using ray tracing and an analysis of the waves’ energetics in the idealized simulations. An ensemble of simulations is performed spanning the relevant parameter space that demonstrates that the strength of the mixing is correlated with the degree to which NIWs are trapped in the critical layers. While the application here is for a shallow coastal setting, the mechanisms could be active in the open ocean as well where isopycnals align with bathymetry.

Open access
Xingchi Wang and Tobias Kukulka

Abstract

Turbulence driven by wind and waves controls the transport of heat, momentum, and matter in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL). For realistic ocean conditions, winds and waves are often neither aligned nor constant, for example, when winds turn rapidly. Using a large-eddy simulation (LES) method, which captures shear-driven turbulence (ST) and Langmuir turbulence (LT) driven by the Craik–Leibovich vortex force, we investigate the OSBL response to abruptly turning winds. We design idealized LES experiments in which winds are initially constant to equilibrate OSBL turbulence before abruptly turning 90° either cyclonically or anticyclonically. The transient Stokes drift for LT is estimated from a spectral wave model. The OSBL response includes three successive stages that follow the change in direction. During stage 1, turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) decreases as a result of reduced TKE production. Stage 2 is characterized by TKE increasing, with TKE shear production recovering and exceeding TKE dissipation. Transient TKE levels may exceed their stationary values because of inertial resonance and nonequilibrium turbulence. Turbulence relaxes to its equilibrium state at stage 3, but LT still adjusts as a result of slowly developing waves. During stages 1 and 2, greatly misaligned wind and waves lead to Eulerian shear TKE production exceeding Stokes drift shear TKE production. A Reynolds stress budget analysis and Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes equation models indicate that Stokes drift shear production furthermore drives the OSBL response. The Coriolis effects result in asymmetrical OSBL responses to wind turning directions. Our results suggest that transient wind conditions play a key role in understanding realistic OSBL dynamics.

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Wilton Sturges

Abstract

A previous study by the author concluded that either there were errors in the satellite results or that some long-term means were not in geostrophic balance. Ship-drift results are in good agreement with surface drifters, but these two do not agree with satellite sea surface heights (SSH). The agreement between the first two suggested the possibility that there could be errors in the SSH or that the mean surface flow is not in geostrophic balance. The present results, using the addition of a fourth long-term mean from hydrographic data, which agrees with the SSH, resolves the issue. The lack of agreement between different long-term means is from inadequate coverage in space and time in data from ship drifts and drifters.

Open access
Qi Quan, Zhongya Cai, Guangzhen Jin, and Zhiqiang Liu

Abstract

Topographic Rossby waves (TRWs) in the abyssal South China Sea (SCS) are investigated using observations and high-resolution numerical simulations. These energetic waves can account for over 40% of the kinetic energy (KE) variability in the deep western boundary current and seamount region in the central SCS. This proportion can even reach 70% over slopes in the northern and southern SCS. The TRW-induced currents exhibit columnar (i.e., in phase) structure in which the speed increases downward. Wave properties such as the period (5–60 days), wavelength (100–500 km), and vertical trapping scale (102–103 m) vary significantly depending on environmental parameters of the SCS. The TRW energy propagates along steep topography with phase propagation offshore. TRWs with high frequencies exhibit a stronger climbing effect than low-frequency ones and hence can move further upslope. For TRWs with a certain frequency, the wavelength and trapping scale are dominated by the topographic beta, whereas the group velocity is more sensitive to the internal Rossby deformation radius. Background circulation with horizontal shear can change the wavelength and direction of TRWs if the flow velocity is comparable to the group velocity, particularly in the central, southern, and eastern SCS. A case study suggests two possible energy sources for TRWs: mesoscale perturbation in the upper layer and large-scale background circulation in the deep layer. The former provides KE by pressure work, whereas the latter transfers the available potential energy (APE) through baroclinic instability.

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Xiaodong Wu, Falk Feddersen, and Sarah N. Giddings

Abstract

Rip currents are generated by surfzone wave breaking and are ejected offshore inducing inner-shelf flow spatial variability (eddies). However, surfzone effects on the inner-shelf flow spatial variability have not been studied in realistic models that include both shelf and surfzone processes. Here, these effects are diagnosed with two nearly identical twin realistic simulations of the San Diego Bight over summer to fall where one simulation includes surface gravity waves (WW) and the other that does not (NW). The simulations include tides, weak to moderate winds, internal waves, submesoscale processes, and have surfzone width L sz of 96(±41) m (≈ 1 m significant wave height). Flow spatial variability metrics, alongshore root mean square vorticity, divergence, and eddy cross-shore velocity, are analyzed in a L sz normalized cross-shore coordinate. At the surface, the metrics are consistently (> 70%) elevated in the WW run relative to NW out to 5L sz offshore. At 4L sz offshore, WW metrics are enhanced over the entire water column. In a fixed coordinate appropriate for eddy transport, the eddy cross-shore velocity squared correlation betweenWWand NW runs is < 0.5 out to 1.2 km offshore or 12 time-averaged L sz. The results indicate that the eddy tracer (e.g., larvae) transport and dispersion across the inner-shelf will be significantly different in the WW and NW runs. The WW model neglects specific surfzone vorticity generation mechanisms. Thus, these inner-shelf impacts are likely underestimated. In other regions with larger waves, impacts will extend farther offshore.

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Ryuichiro Inoue and Satoshi Osafune

Abstract

A part of near-inertial wind energies dissipates locally below the surface mixed layer. Here, their role in the climate system is studied by adopting near-inertial near-field wind-mixing parameterization to a coarse-forward ocean general circulation model. After confirming a problem of the parameterization in the equatorial region, we investigate effects of near-field wind mixing due to storm track activities in the North Pacific. We found that, in the center of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) around 170°W in the mid latitude, near-field wind mixing transfers the PDO signal into deeper layers. Since the results suggest that near-field wind mixing is important in the climate system, we also compared the parameterization with velocity observations by a float in the North Pacific. The float observed abrupt and local propagation of near-inertial internal waves and shear instabilities in the main thermocline along the Kuroshio Extension for 460 km. Vertical diffusivities inferred from the parameterization do not reproduce the enhanced diffusivities in the deeper layer inferred from the float. Wave-ray tracing indicates that wave trapping near the Kuroshio front is responsible for the elevated diffusivities. Therefore, enhanced mixing due to trapping should be included in the parameterization.

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Ali Tamizi, Jose-Henrique Alves, and Ian R. Young

Abstract

A series of numerical experiments with the WAVEWATCH III spectral wave model are used to investigate the physics of wave evolution in tropical cyclones. Buoy observations show that tropical cyclone wave spectra are directionally skewed with a continuum of energy between locally generated wind-sea and remotely generated waves. These systems are often separated by more than 900. The model spectra are consistent with the observed buoy data and are shown to be governed by nonlinear wave-wave interactions which result in a cascade of energy from the wind-sea to the remotely generated spectral peak. The peak waves act in a “parasitic” manner taking energy from the wind-sea to maintain their growth. The critical role of nonlinear processes explains why one-dimensional tropical cyclone spectra have characteristics very similar to fetch-limited waves, even though the generation system is far more complex. The results also provide strong validation of the critical role nonlinear interactions play in wind-wave evolution.

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