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Elise A. Ralph, Kenong Bi, Pearn P. Niiler, and Yves du Penhoat


During the Tropical Oceans Global Atmosphere (TOGA) Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (COARE) intensive observing period (IOP), sustained westerly winds were observed between 20 December 1992 and 10 January 1993 in the area between 155°E and 180°. The oceanic response to this event was monitored by 33 Lagrangian mixed layer drifters, six of which were equipped with SEACAT salinity sensors. The drifters were distributed over several hundred kilometers meridionally and over a zonal extent of 2400 km. During the wind event, the drifters accelerated eastward and formed a strong equatorial jet that was relatively independent of longitude. Following the drifters, the water parcels cooled and became more saline; Sea surface temperature (SST) maps suggest that evaporative cooling occurred.

In order to consider the dynamics and thermodynamics of this jet in more detail, wind stress and buoyancy forcing along the track of each individual drifter were constructed from the TOGA COARE European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts analysis. The mixed layer depth scale and the zonal pressure gradient were calculated from a linear regression between the acceleration and the wind stress. In the meridional direction, the wind stress was smaller and not coherent with the acceleration at any period. During the December wind burst, the entire western equatorial Pacific cooled and a large-scale zonal temperature gradient with cooler water to the west was established west of the date line. Cooled water was advected to the east during this episode.

A 4-yr-long TOGA–Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) current meter record at 165° E and the historical dataset from 250 drifters in the western Pacific within 3° of the equator, together with temperature gradients computed from the National Meteorological Center (renamed the National Centers for Environmental Prediction) SST analysis along the equator, were used to compute a time ensemble average heat advection. On average, cooled water was advected along the equator eastward from the “warm” pool, and this occurred when equatorial currents were to the east.

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Peter G. Black, Eric A. D'Asaro, William M. Drennan, Jeffrey R. French, Pearn P. Niiler, Thomas B. Sanford, Eric J. Terrill, Edward J. Walsh, and Jun A. Zhang

The Coupled Boundary Layer Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST) field program, conducted from 2002 to 2004, has provided a wealth of new air–sea interaction observations in hurricanes. The wind speed range for which turbulent momentum and moisture exchange coefficients have been derived based upon direct flux measurements has been extended by 30% and 60%, respectively, from airborne observations in Hurricanes Fabian and Isabel in 2003. The drag coefficient (C D) values derived from CBLAST momentum flux measurements show C D becoming invariant with wind speed near a 23 m s−1 threshold rather than a hurricane-force threshold near 33 m s−1 . Values above 23 m s−1 are lower than previous open-ocean measurements.

The Dalton number estimates (C E) derived from CBLAST moisture flux measurements are shown to be invariant with wind speeds up to 30 m s −1 which is in approximate agreement with previous measurements at lower winds. These observations imply a C E/C D ratio of approximately 0.7, suggesting that additional energy sources are necessary for hurricanes to achieve their maximum potential intensity. One such additional mechanism for augmented moisture flux in the boundary layer might be “roll vortex” or linear coherent features, observed by CBLAST 2002 measurements to have wavelengths of 0.9–1.2 km. Linear features of the same wavelength range were observed in nearly concurrent RADARSAT Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery.

As a complement to the aircraft measurement program, arrays of drifting buoys and subsurface floats were successfully deployed ahead of Hurricanes Fabian (2003) and Frances (2004) [16 (6) and 38 (14) drifters (floats), respectively, in the two storms]. An unprecedented set of observations was obtained, providing a four-dimensional view of the ocean response to a hurricane for the first time ever. Two types of surface drifters and three types of floats provided observations of surface and subsurface oceanic currents, temperature, salinity, gas exchange, bubble concentrations, and surface wave spectra to a depth of 200 m on a continuous basis before, during, and after storm passage, as well as surface atmospheric observations of wind speed (via acoustic hydrophone) and direction, rain rate, and pressure. Float observations in Frances (2004) indicated a deepening of the mixed layer from 40 to 120 m in approximately 8 h, with a corresponding decrease in SST in the right-rear quadrant of 3.2°C in 11 h, roughly one-third of an inertial period. Strong inertial currents with a peak amplitude of 1.5 m s−1 were observed. Vertical structure showed that the critical Richardson number was reached sporadically during the mixed-layer deepening event, suggesting shear-induced mixing as a prominent mechanism during storm passage. Peak significant waves of 11 m were observed from the floats to complement the aircraft-measured directional wave spectra.

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Richard Rotunno, Leonard J. Pietrafesa, John S. Allen, Bradley R. Colman, Clive M. Dorman, Carl W. Kreitzberg, Stephen J. Lord, Miles G. McPhee, George L. Mellor, Christopher N. K. Mooers, Pearn P. Niiler, Roger A. Pielke Sr., Mark D. Powell, David P. Rogers, James D. Smith, and Lian Xie

U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP) prospectus development teams (PDTs) are small groups of scientists that are convened by the USWRP lead scientist on a one-time basis to discuss critical issues and to provide advice related to future directions of the program. PDTs are a principal source of information for the Science Advisory Committee, which is a standing committee charged with the duty of making recommendations to the Program Office based upon overall program objectives. PDT-1 focused on theoretical issues, and PDT-2 on observational issues; PDT-3 is the first of several to focus on more specialized topics. PDT-3 was convened to identify forecasting problems related to U.S. coastal weather and oceanic conditions, and to suggest likely solution strategies.

There were several overriding themes that emerged from the discussion. First, the lack of data in and over critical regions of the ocean, particularly in the atmospheric boundary layer, and the upper-ocean mixed layer were identified as major impediments to coastal weather prediction. Strategies for data collection and dissemination, as well as new instrument implementation, were discussed. Second, fundamental knowledge of air–sea fluxes and boundary layer structure in situations where there is significant mesoscale variability in the atmosphere and ocean is needed. Companion field studies and numerical prediction experiments were discussed. Third, research prognostic models suggest that future operational forecast models pertaining to coastal weather will be high resolution and site specific, and will properly treat effects of local coastal geography, orography, and ocean state. The view was expressed that the exploration of coupled air-sea models of the coastal zone would be a particularly fruitful area of research. PDT-3 felt that forecasts of land-impacting tropical cyclones, Great Lakes-affected weather, and coastal cyclogenesis, in particular, would benefit from such coordinated modeling and field efforts. Fourth, forecasting for Arctic coastal zones is limited by our understanding of how sea ice forms. The importance of understanding air-sea fluxes and boundary layers in the presence of ice formation was discussed. Finally, coastal flash flood forecasting via hydrologic models is limited by the present accuracy of measured and predicted precipitation and storm surge events. Strategies for better ways to improve the latter were discussed.

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