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Eric D. Skyllingstad
and
Simon P. de Szoeke

Abstract

Cloud-resolving large-eddy simulations (LES) on a 500 km × 500 km periodic domain coupled to a thermodynamic ocean mixed layer are used to study the effect of large-scale moisture convergence M on the convective population and heat and moisture budgets of the tropical atmosphere, for several simulations with M representative of the suppressed, transitional, and active phases of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO). For a limited-area model without an imposed vertical velocity, M controls the overall vertical temperature structure. Moisture convergence equivalent to ~200 W m−2 (9 mm day−1) maintains the observed temperature profile above 5 km. Increased convective heating for simulations with higher M is partially offset by greater infrared cooling, suggesting a potential negative feedback that helps maintain the weak temperature gradient conditions observed in the tropics. Surface evaporation decreases as large-scale moisture convergence increases, and is only a minor component of the overall water budget for convective conditions representing the active phase of the MJO. Cold pools generated by evaporation of precipitation under convective conditions are gusty, with roughly double the wind stress of their surroundings. Consistent with observations, enhanced surface evaporation due to cold pool gusts is up to 40% of the mean, but has a small effect on the total moisture budget compared to the imposed large-scale moisture convergence.

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Natalie Perlin
,
Eric D. Skyllingstad
, and
Roger M. Samelson

Abstract

The study analyzes atmospheric circulation around an idealized coastal cape during summertime upwelling-favorable wind conditions simulated by a mesoscale coupled ocean–atmosphere model. The domain resembles an eastern ocean boundary with a single cape protruding into the ocean in the center of a coastline. The model predicts the formation of an orographic wind intensification area on the lee side of the cape, extending a few hundred kilometers downstream and seaward. Imposed initial conditions do not contain a low-level temperature inversion, which nevertheless forms on the lee side of the cape during the simulation, and which is accompanied by high Froude numbers diagnosed in that area, suggesting the presence of the supercritical flow. Formation of such an inversion is likely caused by average easterly winds resulting on the lee side that bring warm air masses originating over land, as well as by air warming during adiabatic descent on the lee side of the topographic obstacle. Mountain leeside dynamics modulated by differential diurnal heating is thus suggested to dominate the wind regime in the studied case.

The location of this wind feature and its strong diurnal variations correlate well with the development and evolution of the localized lee side trough over the coastal ocean. The vertical extent of the leeside trough is limited by the subsidence inversion aloft. Diurnal modulations of the ocean sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and surface depth-averaged ocean current on the lee side of the cape are found to strongly correlate with wind stress variations over the same area.

Wind-driven coastal upwelling develops during the simulation and extends offshore about 50 km upwind of the cape. It widens twice as much on the lee side of the cape, where the coldest nearshore SSTs are found. The average wind stress–SST coupling in the 100-km coastal zone is strong for the region upwind of the cape, but is notably weaker for the downwind region, estimated from the 10-day-average fields. The study findings demonstrate that orographic and diurnal modulations of the near-surface atmospheric flow on the lee side of the cape notably affect the air–sea coupling on various temporal scales: weaker wind stress–SST coupling results for the long-term averages, while strong correlations are found on the diurnal scale.

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Eric D. Skyllingstad
,
Philip Barbour
, and
Clive E. Dorman

Abstract

A mesoscale model is used to examine the dynamics of northwest flow over the Santa Barbara Channel region. Three cases are considered, each characterized by typical summertime synoptic conditions, but with differences in pressure gradient strength and marine boundary layer depth (MBL). The first case examines a relatively deep MBL and strong pressure gradient. Case 2 is characterized by a more shallow MBL and weaker pressure gradient, and case 3 represents a transition from a deep MBL to shallow conditions. In all cases, simulated surface winds show reasonable agreement with observations over most of the model domain, with the exception of regions near abrupt terrain changes.

Results from the model indicate that the flow with a deep MBL (∼400 m) and strong pressure gradient (case 1) is supercritical, causing regions of acceleration and expansion in the lee of Point Conception. When the MBL is shallow (∼150 m) (case 2), a transcritical flow scenario exists with subcritical flow upstream from Point Conception and a supercritical flow region over the Santa Barbara Channel and downstream from the Channel Islands. Flow over the channel is strongly affected by diurnal heating in shallow MBL cases, reversing direction in step with a land breeze circulation induced by nighttime cooling. The land breeze forces an internal wave disturbance that propagates westward across the channel, eliminating the supercritical flow region in the lee of Point Conception. Conditions with a deep MBL (∼400 m) produce less variability in the surface winds, except for the region sheltered by the Santa Ynez Mountains. An expansion fan is still evident in this case, but it is produced by the interaction of the flow with higher terrain north and east of the channel. The low hills on Point Conception and the Channel Islands do not have a large blocking effect on the surface flow when the MBL is deep.

Analysis of the momentum budget supports the conclusion that the boundary layer behaves like a transcritical hydraulic flow when the MBL is shallow. Except for the open ocean region, the Coriolis term is minor in comparison with the pressure and advection terms. Diurnal heating effects are evident in the nearshore pressure term, which varies from offshore during the late evening to onshore in the afternoon. These effects are most significant when the MBL is shallow and can augment the hydraulically forced pressure pattern, causing a stronger expansion fan in the late afternoon and a collapse of the expansion fan during the early morning.

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Eric D. Skyllingstad
,
Roger M. Samelson
,
Larry Mahrt
, and
Phil Barbour

Abstract

Numerical simulations of boundary layer evolution in offshore flow of warm air over cool water are conducted and compared with aircraft observations of mean and turbulent fields made at Duck, North Carolina. Two models are used: a two-dimensional, high-resolution mesoscale model with a turbulent kinetic energy closure scheme, and a three-dimensional large-eddy simulation (LES) model that explicitly resolves the largest turbulent scales. Both models simulate general aspects of the decoupling of the weakly convective boundary layer from the surface, as it is advected offshore, and the formation of an internal boundary layer over the cool water. Two sets of experiments are performed, which indicate that complexities in upstream surface conditions play an important role in controlling the observed structure. The first (land–sea) experiments examine the transition from a rough surface having the same temperature as the ambient lower atmosphere, to a smooth ocean surface that is 5°C cooler. In the second (barrier island) experiment, a 4-km strip along the coastline having surface temperature 5°C warmer than the ambient atmosphere is introduced, to represent a narrow, heated barrier island present at the Duck site. In the land–sea case, it is found that the mesoscale model overpredicts turbulent intensity in the upper half of the boundary layer, forcing a deeper boundary layer. Both the mesoscale and LES models produce only a small change in the boundary layer shear and tend to decrease the momentum flux near the surface much more rapidly than the observations. Results from the barrier-island case are more in line with the observed momentum and turbulence structure, but still have a reduced momentum flux in the lower boundary layer in comparison with the observations. The authors find that turbulence in the LES model generated by convection over the heated land surface is stronger than in the mesoscale model, and tends to persist offshore for greater distances because of greater shear in the upper boundary layer winds. Analysis of the mesoscale model results suggests that better estimation of the mixing length could improve the turbulence closure in regions where the surface fluxes are changing rapidly.

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Larry W. O’Neill
,
Tracy Haack
,
Dudley B. Chelton
, and
Eric Skyllingstad

Abstract

The distribution of surface divergence in the northwest Atlantic is investigated using 10 years of satellite wind observations from QuikSCAT and a 1-yr simulation from the COAMPS atmospheric model. A band of time-mean surface convergence overlies the Gulf Stream [called here the Gulf Stream convergence zone (GSCZ)] and has been attributed previously to a local boundary layer response to Gulf Stream SST gradients. However, this analysis shows that the GSCZ results mainly from the aggregate impacts of strong convergence anomalies associated with storms propagating along the storm track, which approximately overlies the Gulf Stream. Storm surface convergence anomalies are one to two orders of magnitude greater than the time-mean convergence and produce a highly asymmetric divergence distribution skewed toward convergent winds. The sensitivity of the sign and magnitude of the time-mean divergence to extreme weather events is demonstrated through analysis using an extreme-value filter, conditional sampling based on rain occurrence, and comparison to its median and mode. Vertical velocity and surface pressure are likewise affected by strong storms, which are characterized by upward velocity and low surface pressure. Storms are thus an important process in shaping the mean state of the atmosphere in the northwest Atlantic. These results are difficult to reconcile with the prevailing view that SST “anchors” surface convergence, upward vertical velocity, and increased rain over the Gulf Stream through a local boundary layer adjustment mechanism.

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Larry W. O’Neill
,
Tracy Haack
,
Dudley B. Chelton
, and
Eric Skyllingstad
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Eric D. Skyllingstad
,
Simon P. de Szoeke
, and
Larry W. O’Neill

Abstract

A cloud-resolving model coupled to a mixed layer ocean with an initial 500-km-wide, +3-K sea surface temperature (SST) patch is used to demonstrate the relationship between tropical mesoscale SST gradients and convection under different wind speeds. On these scales, boundary layer convergence toward hydrostatic low surface pressure is partially responsible for triggering convection, but convection subsequently organizes into cells and squall lines that propagate away from the patch. For strong wind (12 m s−1), enhanced convection is shifted downstream from the patch and consists of relatively small cells that are enhanced from increased moist static energy (MSE) flux over the patch. Convection for weak wind (6 m s−1) develops directly over the patch, merging in larger-scale coherent squall-line systems that propagate away from the patch. Squall lines decay after approximately 1 day, and convection redevelops over the patch region after 2 days. Decreasing patch SST from ocean mixing in the coupled simulations affects the overall strength of the convection, but does not qualitatively alter the convective behavior in comparison with cases with a fixed 3-K SST anomaly. In all cases, increased fluxes of heat and moisture, along with latent heating from shallow convection, initially generate lower pressure over the patch and convergence of the boundary layer winds. Within about 1 day, secondary convective circulations, such as surface cold pools, act to spread the effects of the convection over the model domain and overwhelm the effect of low pressure. SST anomalies (1 and 0.5 K) generate enhanced convection only for winds below 6 m s−1.

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Martín S. Hoecker-Martínez
,
William D. Smyth
, and
Eric D. Skyllingstad

Abstract

The dominant processes governing ocean mixing during an active phase of the Madden–Julian oscillation are identified. Air–sea fluxes and upper-ocean currents and hydrography, measured aboard the R/V Revelle during boreal fall 2011 in the Indian Ocean at 0°, 80.5°E, are integrated by means of a large-eddy simulation (LES) to infer mixing mechanisms and quantify the resulting vertical property fluxes. In the simulation, wind accelerates the mixed layer, and shear mixes the momentum downward, causing the mixed layer base to descend. Turbulent kinetic energy gains due to shear production and Langmuir circulations are opposed by stirring gravity and frictional losses. The strongest stirring of buoyancy follows precipitation events and penetrates to the base of the mixed layer. The focus here is on the initial 24 h of an unusually strong wind burst that began on 24 November 2011. The model shows that Langmuir turbulence influences only the uppermost few meters of the ocean. Below the wave-energized region, shear instability responds to the integrated momentum flux into the mixed layer, lagging the initial onset of the storm. Shear below the mixed layer persists after the storm has weakened and decelerates the surface jet slowly (compared with the acceleration at the peak of the storm). Slow loss of momentum from the mixed layer extends the effect of the surface wind burst by energizing the fluid at the base of the mixed layer, thereby prolonging heat uptake due to the storm. Ocean turbulence and air–sea fluxes contribute to the cooling of the mixed layer approximately in the ratio 1:3, consistent with observations.

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Eric D. Skyllingstad
,
W. D. Smyth
, and
G. B. Crawford

Abstract

The role of resonant wind forcing in the ocean boundary layer was examined using an ocean large-eddy simulation (LES) model. The model simulates turbulent flow in a box, measuring ∼100–300 m on a side, whose top coincides with the ocean surface. Horizontal boundary conditions are periodic, and time-dependent wind forcing is applied at the surface. Two wind forcing scenarios were studied: one with resonant winds, that is, winds that rotated at exactly the inertial frequency (at 45°N), and a second with off-resonance winds from a constant direction. The evolution of momentum and temperature for both cases showed that resonant wind forcing produces much stronger surface currents and vertical mixing in comparison to the off-resonance case. Surface wave effects were also examined and found to be of secondary importance relative to the wind forcing.

The main goal was to quantify the main processes via which kinetic energy input by the wind is converted to potential energy in the form of changes in the upper-ocean temperature profile. In the resonant case, the initial pathway of wind energy was through the acceleration of an inertially rotating current. About half of the energy input into the inertial current was dissipated as the result of a turbulent energy cascade. Changes in the potential energy of the water column were ∼7% of the total input wind energy. The off-resonance case developed a much weaker inertial current system, and consequently less mixing because the wind acted to remove energy after ∼¼ inertial cycle. Local changes in the potential energy were much larger than the integrated values, signifying the vertical redistribution of water heated during the summer season.

Visualization of the LES results revealed coherent eddy structures with scales from 30–150 m. The largest-scale eddies dominated the vertical transport of heat and momentum and caused enhanced entrainment at the boundary layer base. Near the surface, the dominant eddies were driven by the Stokes vortex force and had the form of Langmuir cells. Near the base of the mixed layer, turbulent motions were driven primarily by the interaction of the inertial shear with turbulent Reynolds stresses. Bulk Richardson number and eddy diffusivity profiles from the model were consistent with one-dimensional model output using the K-profile parameterization.

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Eric D. Skyllingstad
,
Jenessa Duncombe
, and
Roger M. Samelson

Abstract

Generation of ocean surface boundary layer turbulence and coherent roll structures is examined in the context of wind-driven and geostrophic shear associated with horizontal density gradients using a large-eddy simulation model. Numerical experiments over a range of surface wind forcing and horizontal density gradient strengths, combined with linear stability analysis, indicate that the dominant instability mechanism supporting coherent roll development in these simulations is a mixed instability combining shear instability of the ageostrophic, wind-driven flow with symmetric instability of the frontal geostrophic shear. Disruption of geostrophic balance by vertical mixing induces an inertially rotating ageostrophic current, not forced directly by the wind, that initially strengthens the stratification, damps the instabilities, and reduces vertical mixing, but instability and mixing return when the inertial buoyancy advection reverses. The resulting rolls and instabilities are not aligned with the frontal zone, with an oblique orientation controlled by the Ekman-like instability. Mean turbulence is enhanced when the winds are destabilizing relative to the frontal orientation, but mean Ekman buoyancy advection is found to be relatively unimportant in these simulations. Instead, the mean turbulent kinetic energy balance is dominated by mechanical shear production that is enhanced when the wind-driven shear augments the geostrophic shear, while the resulting vertical mixing nearly eliminates any effective surface buoyancy flux from near-surface, cold-to-warm, Ekman buoyancy advection.

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