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Qian Song, Arnold L. Gordon, and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

The Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) spreading pathways and time scales in the Indian Ocean are investigated using both observational data and two numerical tracer experiments, one being a three-dimensional Lagrangian trajectory experiment and the other a transit-time probability density function (PDF) tracer experiment, in an ocean general circulation model. The model climatology is in agreement with observations and other model results except that speeds of boundary currents are lower. Upon reaching the western boundary within the South Equatorial Current (SEC), the trajectories of the ITF tracers within the thermocline exhibit bifurcation. The Lagrangian trajectory experiment shows that at the western boundary about 38%±5% thermocline ITF water flows southward to join the Agulhas Current, consequently exiting the Indian Ocean, and the rest, about 62%±5%, flows northward to the north of SEC. In boreal summer, ITF water penetrates into the Northern Hemisphere within the Somali Current. The primary spreading pathway of the thermocline ITF water north of SEC is upwelling to the surface layer with subsequent advection southward within the surface Ekman layer toward the southern Indian Ocean subtropics. There it is subducted and advected northward in the upper thermocline to rejoin the SEC. Both the observations and the trajectory experiment suggest that the upwelling occurs mainly along the coast of Somalia during boreal summer and in the open ocean within a cyclonic gyre in the Tropics south of the equator throughout the year. All the ITF water eventually exits the Indian Ocean along the western boundary within the Mozambique Channel and the east coast of Madagascar and, farther south, the Agulhas Current region. The advective spreading time scales, represented by the elapsed time corresponding to the maximum of transit- time PDF, show that in the upper thermocline the ITF crosses the Indian Ocean, from the Makassar Strait to the east coast of the African continent, on a time scale of about 10 yr and reaches the Arabian Sea on a time scale of over 20 yr.

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Gerd Krahmann, Martin Visbeck, and Gilles Reverdin

Abstract

A general circulation ocean model has been used to study the formation and propagation mechanisms of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)-generated temperature anomalies along the pathway of the North Atlantic Current (NAC). The NAO-like wind forcing generates temperature anomalies in the upper 440 m that propagate along the pathway of the NAC in general agreement with the observations. The analysis of individual components of the ocean heat budget reveals that the anomalies are primarily generated by the wind stress anomaly-induced oceanic heat transport divergence. After their generation they are advected with the mean current. Surface heat flux anomalies account for only one-third of the total temperature changes. Along the pathway of the NAC temperature anomalies of opposite signs are formed in the first and second halves of the pathway, a pattern called here the North Atlantic dipole (NAD). The response of the ocean depends fundamentally on R t = (L/υ)/τ, the ratio between the time it takes for anomalies to propagate along the NAC [(L/υ) ∼ 10 years] compared to the forcing period τ. The authors find that for NAO periods shorter than 4 years (R t > 1) the response in the subpolar region is mainly determined by the local forcing. For NAO periods longer than 32 years (R t < 1); however, the SST anomalies in the northeastern part of the NAD become controlled by ocean advection. In the subpolar region maximal amplitudes of the temperature response are found for intermediate (decadal) periods (R t ∼ 1) where the propagation of temperature anomalies constructively interferes with the local forcing. A comparison of the NAO-generated propagating temperature anomalies with those found in observations will be discussed.

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Sonya Legg, Helen Jones, and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

A simple point-vortex “heton” model is used to study localized ocean convection. In particular, the statistically steady state that is established when lateral buoyancy transfer, effected by baroclinic instability, offsets the localized surface buoyancy loss is investigated. Properties of the steady state, such as the statistically steady density anomaly of the convection region, are predicted using the hypothesis of a balance between baroclinic eddy transfer and the localized surface buoyancy loss. These predictions compare favorably with the values obtained through numerical integration of the heton model.

The steady state of the heron model can be related to that in other convection scenarios considered in several recent studies by means of a generalized description of the localized convection. This leads to predictions of the equilibrium density anomalies in these scenarios, which concur with those obtained by other authors. Advantages of the heton model include its inviscid nature, emphasizing the independence of the fluxes affected by the baroclinic eddies from molecular processes, and its extreme economy, allowing a very large parameter space to be covered. This economy allows us to examine more complicated forcing scenarios: for example, forcing regions of varying shape. By increasing the ellipticity of the forcing region, the instability is modified by the shape and, as a result, no increase in lateral fluxes occurs despite the increased perimeter length.

The parameterization of convective mixing by a redistribution of potential vorticity, implicit in the heton model, is corroborated; the heton model equilibrium state has analogous quantitative scaling behavior to that in models or laboratory experiments that resolve the vertical motions. The simplified dynamics of the heton model therefore allows the adiabatic advection resulting from baroclinic instability to be examined in isolation from vertical mixing and diffusive processes. These results demonstrate the importance of baroclinic instability in controlling the properties of a water mass generated by localized ocean convection. A complete parameterization of this process must therefore account for the fluxes induced by horizontal variations in surface buoyancy loss and affected by baroclinic instability.

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Samar Khatiwala, Peter Schlosser, and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

Time series of hydrographic and transient tracer (3H and 3He) observations from the central Labrador Sea collected between 1991 and 1996 are presented to document the complex changes in the tracer fields as a result of variations in convective activity during the 1990s. Between 1991 and 1993, as atmospheric forcing intensified, convection penetrated to progressively increasing depths, reaching ∼2300 m in the winter of 1993. Over that period the potential temperature (θ)/salinity (S) properties of Labrador Sea Water stayed nearly constant as surface cooling and downward mixing of freshwater was balanced by excavating and upward mixing of the warmer and saltier Northeast Atlantic Deep Water. It is shown that the net change in heat content of the water column (150–2500 m) between 1991 and 1993 was negligible compared to the estimated mean heat loss over that period (110 W m−2), implying that the lateral convergence of heat into the central Labrador Sea nearly balances the atmospheric cooling on a surprisingly short timescale. Interestingly, the 3H–3He age of Labrador Sea Water increased during this period of intensifying convection. Starting in 1995, winters were milder and convection was restricted to the upper 800 m. Between 1994 and 1996, the evolution of 3H–3He age is similar to that of a stagnant water body. In contrast, the increase in θ and S over that period implies exchange of tracers with the boundaries via both an eddy-induced overturning circulation and along-isopycnal stirring by eddies [with an exchange coefficient of O(500 m2 s−1)].

The authors construct a freshwater budget for the Labrador Sea and quantitatively demonstrate that sea ice meltwater is the dominant cause of the large annual cycle of salinity in the Labrador Sea, both on the shelf and the interior. It is shown that the transport of freshwater by eddies into the central Labrador Sea (∼140 cm between March and September) can readily account for the observed seasonal freshening. Finally, the authors discuss the role of the eddy-induced overturning circulation with regard to transport and dispersal of the newly ventilated Labrador Sea Water to the boundary current system and compare its strength (2–3 Sv) to the diagnosed buoyancy-forced formation rate of Labrador Sea Water.

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Martin Visbeck, John Marshall, and Helen Jones

Abstract

An initially resting ocean of stratification N is considered, subject to buoyancy loss at its surface of magnitude B 0 over a circular region of radius r, at a latitude where the Coriolis parameter is f. Initially the buoyancy loss gives rise to upright convection as an ensemble of plumes penetrates the stratified ocean creating a vertically mixed layer. However, as deepening proceeds, horizontal density gradients at the edge of the forcing region support a geostrophic rim current, which develops growing meanders through baroclinic instability. Eventually finite-amplitude baroclinic eddies sweep stratified water into the convective region at the surface and transport convected water outward and away below, setting up a steady state in which lateral buoyancy flux offsets buoyancy loss at the surface. In this final state quasi-horizontal baroclinic eddy transfer dominates upright “plume” convection.

By using “parcel theory” to consider the energy transformations taking place, it is shown that the depth, h final at which deepening by convective plumes is arrested by lateral buoyancy flux due to baroclinic eddies, and the time t final it takes to reach this depth, is given by
i1520-0485-26-9-1721-eq1
both independent of rotation. Here γ and β are dimensionless constants that depend on the efficiency of baroclinic eddy transfer. A number of laboratory and numerical experiments are then inspected and carried out to seek confirmation of these parameter dependencies and obtain quantitative estimates of the constants. It is found that γ = 3.9 ± 0.9 and β = 12 ± 3.

Finally, the implications of our study to the understanding of integral properties of deep and intermediate convection in the ocean are discussed.

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Martin Visbeck, John Marshall, Tom Haine, and Mike Spall

Abstract

Parametric representations of oceanic geostrophic eddy transfer of heat and salt are studied ranging fromhorizontal diffusion to the more physically based approaches of Green and Stone (GS) and Gent and McWilliams(GM). The authors argue for a representation that combines the best aspects of GS and GM: transfer coefficientsthat vary in space and time in a manner that depends on the large-scale density fields (GS) and adoption of atransformed Eulerian mean formalism (GM). Recommendations are based upon a two-dimensional (zonally orazimuthally averaged) model with parameterized horizontal and vertical fluxes that is compared to three-dimensional numerical calculations in which the eddy transfer is resolved. Three different scenarios are considered: 1) a convective “chimney” where the baroclinic zone is created by differential surface cooling; 2) spindownof a frontal zone due to baroclinic eddies; and 3) a wind-driven, baroclinically unstable channel. Guided bybaroclinic instability theory and calibrated against eddy-resolving calculations, the authors recommend a formfor the horizontal transfer coefficient given by
i1520-0485-27-3-381-eq1
where Ri = f 2 N 2/M 4 is the large-scale Richardson number and f is the Coriolis parameter; M 2 and N 2 are measuresof the horizontal and vertical stratification of the large-scale flow, l measures the width of the baroclinic zone,and α is a constant of proportionality. In the very different scenarios studied here the authors find α to be a“universal” constant equal to 0.015, not dissimilar to that found by Green for geostrophic eddies in the atmosphere. The magnitude of the implied k, however, varies from 300 m2 s−1 in the chimney to 2000 m2 s−1 inthe wind-driven channel.
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Changming Dong, Hsien-Wang Ou, Dake Chen, and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

An analytical model is developed to study the tidally induced mean circulation in the frontal zone. Four distinct forcing mechanisms are identified, which result in the generation of the counterclockwise Bernoulli cell, the clockwise Ekman cell, the clockwise frontal cell, and the Stokes drift (facing in the direction with the shallow water to the left). The decomposition of the cross-frontal circulation provides a dynamical framework for interpreting and understanding its complex structure. To illustrate the underlying physics, three model configurations are considered pertaining to a homogenous ocean and winter and summer fronts. For a homogeneous ocean, the circulation is dominated by three cells; for the winter front, the offshore Bernoulli cell is strengthened; and for the summer front, two counterrotating cells are found in the vertical direction, associated with the two branches of the front. The dependence of the cell structure on the Ekman, Burger, and other dimensionless numbers is examined.

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Wilco Hazeleger, Richard Seager, Martin Visbeck, Naomi Naik, and Keith Rodgers

Abstract

Transient eddies in the atmosphere induce a poleward transport of heat and moisture. A moist static energy budget of the surface layer is determined from the NCEP reanalysis data to evaluate the impact of the storm track. It is found that the transient eddies induce a cooling and drying of the surface layer with a monthly mean maximum of 60 W m−2. The cooling in the midlatitudes extends zonally over the entire basin. The impact of this cooling and drying on surface heat fluxes, sea surface temperature (SST), water mass transformation, and vertical structure of the Pacific is investigated using an ocean model coupled to an atmospheric mixed layer model. The cooling by atmospheric storms is represented by adding an eddy-induced transfer velocity to the mean velocity in an atmospheric mixed layer model. This is based on a parameterization of tracer transport by eddies in the ocean. When the atmospheric mixed layer model is coupled to an ocean model, realistic SSTs are simulated. The SST is up to 3 K lower due to the cooling by storms. The additional cooling leads to enhanced transformation rates of water masses in the midlatitudes. The enhanced shallow overturning cells affect even tropical regions. Together with realistic SST and deep winter mixed layer depths, this leads to formation of homogeneous water masses in the upper North Pacific, in accordance to observations.

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Arnold L. Gordon, Martin Visbeck, and Josefino C. Comiso

Abstract

Shortly after the advent of the first imaging passive microwave sensor on board a research satellite an anomalous climate feature was observed within the Weddell Sea. During the years 1974–1976, a 250 × 103 km2 area within the seasonal sea ice cover was virtually free of winter sea ice. This feature, the Weddell Polynya, was created as sea ice formation was inhibited by ocean convection that injected relatively warm deep water into the surface layer. Though smaller, less persistent polynyas associated with topographically induced upwelling at Maud Rise frequently form in the area, there has not been a reoccurrence of the Weddell Polynya since 1976. Archived observations of the surface layer salinity within the Weddell gyre suggest that the Weddell Polynya may have been induced by a prolonged period of negative Southern Annular Mode (SAM). During negative SAM the Weddell Sea experiences colder and drier atmospheric conditions, making for a saltier surface layer with reduced pycnocline stability. This condition enables Maud Rise upwelling to trigger sustained deep-reaching convection associated with the polynya. Since the late 1970s SAM has been close to neutral or in a positive state, resulting in warmer, wetter conditions over the Weddell Sea, forestalling repeat of the Weddell Polynya. A contributing factor to the Weddell Polynya initiation may have been a La Niña condition, which is associated with increased winter sea ice formation in the polynya area. If the surface layer is made sufficiently salty due to a prolonged negative SAM period, perhaps aided by La Niña, then Maud Rise upwelling meets with positive feedback, triggering convection, and a winter persistent Weddell Polynya.

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Julie M. Jones, Ryan L. Fogt, Martin Widmann, Gareth J. Marshall, Phil D. Jones, and Martin Visbeck

Abstract

Seasonal reconstructions of the Southern Hemisphere annular mode (SAM) index are derived to extend the record before the reanalysis period, using station sea level pressure (SLP) data as predictors. Two reconstructions using different predictands are obtained: one [Jones and Widmann (JW)] based on the first principal component (PC) of extratropical SLP and the other (Fogt) on the index of Marshall. A regional-based SAM index (Visbeck) is also considered.

These predictands agree well post-1979; correlations decline in all seasons except austral summer for the full series starting in 1958. Predictand agreement is strongest in spring and summer; hence agreement between the reconstructions is highest in these seasons. The less zonally symmetric SAM structure in winter and spring influences the strength of the SAM signal over land areas, hence the number of stations included in the reconstructions. Reconstructions from 1865 were, therefore, derived in summer and autumn and from 1905 in winter and spring.

This paper examines the skill of each reconstruction by comparison with observations and reanalysis data. Some of the individual peaks in the reconstructions, such as the most recent in austral summer, represent a full hemispheric SAM pattern, while others are caused by regional SLP anomalies over the locations of the predictors. The JW and Fogt reconstructions are of similar quality in summer and autumn, while in winter and spring the Marshall index is better reconstructed by Fogt than the PC index is by JW. In spring and autumn the SAM shows considerable variability prior to recent decades.

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