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  • Author or Editor: Alberto C. Naveira Garabato x
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Xiaolong Yu
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
Adrian P. Martin
, and
David P. Marshall

Abstract

The evolution of upper-ocean potential vorticity (PV) over a full year in a typical midocean area of the northeast Atlantic is examined using submesoscale- and mesoscale-resolving hydrographic and velocity measurements from a mooring array. A PV budget framework is applied to quantitatively document the competing physical processes responsible for deepening and shoaling the mixed layer. The observations reveal a distinct seasonal cycle in upper-ocean PV, characterized by frequent occurrences of negative PV within deep (up to about 350 m) mixed layers from winter to mid-spring, and positive PV beneath shallow (mostly less than 50 m) mixed layers during the remainder of the year. The cumulative positive and negative subinertial changes in the mixed layer depth, which are largely unaccounted for by advective contributions, exceed the deepest mixed layer by one order of magnitude, suggesting that mixed layer depth is shaped by the competing effects of destratifying and restratifying processes. Deep mixed layers are attributed to persistent atmospheric cooling from winter to mid-spring, which triggers gravitational instability leading to mixed layer deepening. However, on shorter time scales of days, conditions favorable to symmetric instability often occur as winds intermittently align with transient frontal flows. The ensuing submesoscale frontal instabilities are found to fundamentally alter upper-ocean turbulent convection, and limit the deepening of the mixed layer in the winter-to-mid-spring period. These results emphasize the key role of submesoscale frontal instabilities in determining the seasonal evolution of the mixed layer in the open ocean.

Open access
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
Loïc Jullion
,
David P. Stevens
,
Karen J. Heywood
, and
Brian A. King

Abstract

A time series of the physical and biogeochemical properties of Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) and Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) in the Drake Passage between 1969 and 2005 is constructed using 24 transects of measurements across the passage. Both water masses have experienced substantial variability on interannual to interdecadal time scales. SAMW is formed by winter overturning on the equatorward flank of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) in and to the west of the Drake Passage. Its interannual variability is primarily driven by variations in wintertime air–sea turbulent heat fluxes and net evaporation modulated by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Despite their spatial proximity, the AAIW in the Drake Passage has a very different source than that of the SAMW because it is ventilated by the northward subduction of Winter Water originating in the Bellingshausen Sea. Changes in AAIW are mainly forced by variability in Winter Water properties resulting from fluctuations in wintertime air–sea turbulent heat fluxes and spring sea ice melting, both of which are linked to predominantly ENSO-driven variations in the intensity of meridional winds to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula. A prominent exception to the prevalent modes of SAMW and AAIW formation occurred in 1998, when strong wind forcing associated with constructive interference between ENSO and the southern annular mode (SAM) triggered a transitory shift to an Ekman-dominated mode of SAMW ventilation and a 1–2-yr shutdown of AAIW production.

The interdecadal evolutions of SAMW and AAIW in the Drake Passage are distinct and driven by different processes. SAMW warmed (by ∼0.3°C) and salinified (by ∼0.04) during the 1970s and experienced the reverse trends between 1990 and 2005, when the coldest and freshest SAMW on record was observed. In contrast, AAIW underwent a net freshening (by ∼0.05) between the 1970s and the twenty-first century. Although the reversing changes in SAMW were chiefly forced by a ∼30-yr oscillation in regional air–sea turbulent heat fluxes and precipitation associated with the interdecadal Pacific oscillation, with a SAM-driven intensification of the Ekman supply of Antarctic surface waters from the south contributing significantly too, the freshening of AAIW was linked to the extreme climate change that occurred to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula in recent decades. There, a freshening of the Winter Water ventilating AAIW was brought about by increased precipitation and a retreat of the winter sea ice edge, which were seemingly forced by an interdecadal trend in the SAM and regional positive feedbacks in the air–sea ice coupled climate system. All in all, these findings highlight the role of the major modes of Southern Hemisphere climate variability in driving the evolution of SAMW and AAIW in the Drake Passage region and the wider South Atlantic and suggest that these modes may have contributed significantly to the hemispheric-scale changes undergone by those waters in recent decades.

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Michael P. Meredith
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
Andrew McC. Hogg
, and
Riccardo Farneti

Abstract

The sensitivity of the overturning circulation in the Southern Ocean to the recent decadal strengthening of the overlying winds is being discussed intensely, with some works attributing an inferred saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink to an intensification of the overturning circulation, while others have argued that this circulation is insensitive to changes in winds. Fundamental to reconciling these diverse views is to understand properly the role of eddies in counteracting the directly wind-forced changes in overturning. Here, the authors use novel theoretical considerations and fine-resolution ocean models to develop a new scaling for the sensitivity of eddy-induced mixing to changes in winds, and they demonstrate that changes in Southern Ocean overturning in response to recent and future changes in wind stress forcing are likely to be substantial, even in the presence of a decadally varying eddy field. This result has significant implications for the ocean’s role in the carbon cycle, and hence global climate.

Full access
Bieito Fernández-Castro
,
Dafydd Gwyn Evans
,
Eleanor Frajka-Williams
,
Clément Vic
, and
Alberto C. Naveira-Garabato
Open access
Matthew D. Palmer
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
John D. Stark
,
Joël J-M. Hirschi
, and
Jochem Marotzke

Abstract

A regional general circulation model (GCM) of the Indian Ocean is used to investigate the influence of prescribed diapycnal diffusivity (Kd ) on quasi-steady states of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC). The model has open boundaries at 35°S and 123°E where velocity, temperature, and salinity are prescribed at each time step. The results suggest that quasi-steady overturning states in the Indian Ocean are reached on centennial time scales. The size and structure of the MOC are controlled by the distribution of Kd and the southern boundary conditions. The distribution of Kd required to support an overturning circulation in the model interior of a magnitude equal to that prescribed at the southern boundary is estimated using a 1D advection–diffusion balance in isopycnal layers. Implementing this approach, 70%–90% of the prescribed deep inflow can be supported in quasi-steady state. Thus one is able to address the systematic discrepancy between past estimates of the deep MOC based on hydrographic sections and those based on GCM results. However, the Kd values required to support a substantial MOC in the model are much larger than current observation-based estimates, particularly for the upper 3000 m. The two estimates of the flow field near 32°S used to force the southern boundary imply a highly nonuniform distribution of Kd , as do recent estimates of Kd based on hydrographic observations. This work highlights the need to improve and implement realistic estimates of (nonuniform) Kd in ocean and coupled ocean–atmosphere GCMs when investigating quasi-equilibrium model states.

Full access
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
Xiaolong Yu
,
Jörn Callies
,
Roy Barkan
,
Kurt L. Polzin
,
Eleanor E. Frajka-Williams
,
Christian E. Buckingham
, and
Stephen M. Griffies

Abstract

Mesoscale eddies contain the bulk of the ocean’s kinetic energy (KE), but fundamental questions remain on the cross-scale KE transfers linking eddy generation and dissipation. The role of submesoscale flows represents the key point of discussion, with contrasting views of submesoscales as either a source or a sink of mesoscale KE. Here, the first observational assessment of the annual cycle of the KE transfer between mesoscale and submesoscale motions is performed in the upper layers of a typical open-ocean region. Although these diagnostics have marginal statistical significance and should be regarded cautiously, they are physically plausible and can provide a valuable benchmark for model evaluation. The cross-scale KE transfer exhibits two distinct stages, whereby submesoscales energize mesoscales in winter and drain mesoscales in spring. Despite this seasonal reversal, an inverse KE cascade operates throughout the year across much of the mesoscale range. Our results are not incompatible with recent modeling investigations that place the headwaters of the inverse KE cascade at the submesoscale, and that rationalize the seasonality of mesoscale KE as an inverse cascade-mediated response to the generation of submesoscales in winter. However, our findings may challenge those investigations by suggesting that, in spring, a downscale KE transfer could dampen the inverse KE cascade. An exploratory appraisal of the dynamics governing mesoscale–submesoscale KE exchanges suggests that the upscale KE transfer in winter is underpinned by mixed layer baroclinic instabilities, and that the downscale KE transfer in spring is associated with frontogenesis. Current submesoscale-permitting ocean models may substantially understate this downscale KE transfer, due to the models’ muted representation of frontogenesis.

Full access
Michael P. Meredith
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
David P. Stevens
,
Karen J. Heywood
, and
Richard J. Sanders

Abstract

Two meridional hydrographic transects (in 1995 and 1999) across the eastern Scotia Sea are used to investigate variability in the deep and bottom waters between the South Scotia Ridge and South Georgia. There is a significant warming of the warm deep water (WDW) south of the southern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC); waters are approximately 0.1°–0.2°C warmer in 1999 than 1995. This is due mainly to raised WDW potential temperatures in the Weddell Sea being fed through to the Scotia Sea as the WDW flows northeastward in the Weddell Gyre. There is a warming of the Weddell Sea Deep Water (WSDW) of approximately 0.05°C across the whole extent of the section, and an accompanying change in salinity that maintains the potential temperature–salinity relationship. This is caused by variability in the properties of the water overflowing the South Scotia Ridge, rather than enhanced outflow of the bottom layer of the Scotia Sea or movements of the ACC fronts, and may be related to changes in the intensity of the Weddell Gyre circulation. Consideration of other works suggests that the colder WSDW of 1995 is likely to be the anomalous case, rather than the warmer WSDW of 1999. The 1999 section reveals an inflow of Lower WSDW from east of the South Sandwich Arc via the Georgia Passage; this is constrained to the south of the southern boundary, and is not apparent in the 1995 measurements. Meanders in the southern boundary at Georgia Passage are likely to play a role in controlling the inflow of Lower WSDW, although changes in the peak density of the WSDW flowing across the South Scotia Ridge may be important also, with a denser inflow from the south acting to preclude an inflow of similar density from the northeast.

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Andrew F. Thompson
,
Ayah Lazar
,
Christian Buckingham
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
Gillian M. Damerell
, and
Karen J. Heywood

Abstract

The importance of submesoscale instabilities, particularly mixed layer baroclinic instability and symmetric instability, on upper-ocean mixing and energetics is well documented in regions of strong, persistent fronts such as the Kuroshio and the Gulf Stream. Less attention has been devoted to studying submesoscale flows in the open ocean, far from long-term, mean geostrophic fronts, characteristic of a large proportion of the global ocean. This study presents a year-long, submesoscale-resolving time series of near-surface buoyancy gradients, potential vorticity, and instability characteristics, collected by ocean gliders, that provides insight into open-ocean submesoscale dynamics over a full annual cycle. The gliders continuously sampled a 225 km2 region in the subtropical northeast Atlantic, measuring temperature, salinity, and pressure along 292 short (~20 km) hydrographic sections. Glider observations show a seasonal cycle in near-surface stratification. Throughout the fall (September–November), the mixed layer deepens, predominantly through gravitational instability, indicating that surface cooling dominates submesoscale restratification processes. During winter (December–March), mixed layer depths are more variable, and estimates of the balanced Richardson number, which measures the relative importance of lateral and vertical buoyancy gradients, depict conditions favorable to symmetric instability. The importance of mixed layer instabilities on the restratification of the mixed layer, as compared with surface heating and cooling, shows that submesoscale processes can reverse the sign of an equivalent heat flux up to 25% of the time during winter. These results demonstrate that the open-ocean mixed layer hosts various forced and unforced instabilities, which become more prevalent during winter, and emphasize that accurate parameterizations of submesoscale processes are needed throughout the ocean.

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Dafydd Gwyn Evans
,
John Toole
,
Gael Forget
,
Jan D. Zika
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
A. J. George Nurser
, and
Lisan Yu

Abstract

Interannual variability in the volumetric water mass distribution within the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre is described in relation to variability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. The relative roles of diabatic and adiabatic processes in the volume and heat budgets of the subtropical gyre are investigated by projecting data into temperature coordinates as volumes of water using an Argo-based climatology and an ocean state estimate (ECCO version 4). This highlights that variations in the subtropical gyre volume budget are predominantly set by transport divergence in the gyre. A strong correlation between the volume anomaly due to transport divergence and the variability of both thermocline depth and Ekman pumping over the gyre suggests that wind-driven heave drives transport anomalies at the gyre boundaries. This wind-driven heaving contributes significantly to variations in the heat content of the gyre, as do anomalies in the air–sea fluxes. The analysis presented suggests that wind forcing plays an important role in driving interannual variability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and that this variability can be unraveled from spatially distributed hydrographic observations using the framework presented here.

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Clément Vic
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
J. A. Mattias Green
,
Carl Spingys
,
Alexander Forryan
,
Zhongxiang Zhao
, and
Jonathan Sharples

Abstract

The life cycle of semidiurnal internal tides over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) sector south of the Azores is investigated using in situ, a high-resolution mooring and microstructure profiler, and satellite data, in combination with a theoretical model of barotropic-to-baroclinic tidal energy conversion. The mooring analysis reveals that the internal tide horizontal energy flux is dominated by mode 1 and that energy density is more distributed among modes 1–10. Most modes are compatible with an interpretation in terms of standing internal tides, suggesting that they result from interactions between waves generated over the MAR. Internal tide energy is thus concentrated above the ridge and is eventually available for local diapycnal mixing, as endorsed by the elevated rates of turbulent energy dissipation ε estimated from microstructure measurements. A spring–neap modulation of energy density on the MAR is found to originate from the remote generation and radiation of strong mode-1 internal tides from the Atlantis-Meteor Seamount Complex. Similar fortnightly variability of a factor of 2 is observed in ε, but this signal’s origin cannot be determined unambiguously. A regional tidal energy budget highlights the significance of high-mode generation, with 81% of the energy lost by the barotropic tide being converted into modes >1 and only 9% into mode 1. This has important implications for the fraction (q) of local dissipation to the total energy conversion, which is regionally estimated to be ~0.5. This result is in stark contrast with the Hawaiian Ridge system, where the radiation of mode-1 internal tides accounts for 30% of the regional energy conversion, and q < 0.25.

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