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Dennis A. Mayer
,
Jyotika I. Virmani
, and
Robert H. Weisberg

Abstract

Current observations are compared from upward- and downward-looking acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) deployed on the West Florida Shelf (WFS). Despite regional differences, statistical analyses show good agreement between all sets of observations throughout the water column except in the upper few meters where all downward-looking ADCPs exhibit small, but significant, reduction in rms speed values. Evidence suggests that this reduction is mooring related. It is possible that the presence of near-surface bubbles caused by wave activity could bias the near-surface observations. Otherwise, either the upward- or downward-looking mooring systems produce equivalent observations with differences due to spatial variations.

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Yonggang Liu
,
Robert H. Weisberg
, and
Lynn K. Shay

Abstract

To assess the spatial structures and temporal evolutions of distinct physical processes on the West Florida Shelf, patterns of ocean current variability are extracted from a joint HF radar and ADCP dataset acquired from August to September 2003 using Self-Organizing Map (SOM) analyses. Three separate ocean–atmosphere frequency bands are considered: semidiurnal, diurnal, and subtidal. The currents in the semidiurnal band are relatively homogeneous in space, barotropic, clockwise polarized, and have a neap-spring modulation consistent with semidiurnal tides. The currents in the diurnal band are less homogeneous, more baroclinic, and clockwise polarized, consistent with a combination of diurnal tides and near-inertial oscillations. The currents in the subtidal frequency band are stronger and with more complex patterns consistent with wind and buoyancy forcing. The SOM is shown to be a useful technique for extracting ocean current patterns with dynamically distinctive spatial and temporal structures sampled by HF radar and supporting in situ measurements.

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Yonggang Liu
,
Robert H. Weisberg
, and
Clifford R. Merz

Abstract

Concurrently operated on the West Florida shelf for the purpose of observing surface currents are three long-range (4.9 MHz) Coastal Ocean Dynamics Applications Radar (CODAR) SeaSonde and two median-range (12.7 MHz) Wellen Radar (WERA) high-frequency (HF) radar systems. These HF radars overlook an array of moored acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs), three of which are presently within the radar footprint. Analyzed herein are 3 months of simultaneous observations. Both the SeaSonde and WERA systems generally agree with the ADCPs to within root-mean-square differences (rmsd) for hourly radial velocity components of 5.1–9.2 and 3.8–6.5 cm s−1 for SeaSonde and WERA, respectively, and within rmsd for 36-h low-pass filtered radial velocity components of 2.8–6.0 and 2.2–4.3 cm s−1 for SeaSonde and WERA, respectively. The bearing offset and tidal and subtidal currents of total velocities are also assessed using the ADCP data. Despite differences in a variety of aspects between the direction-finding CODAR SeaSonde (long range, effective depth of 2.4 m, integration time of 4 h, and idealized antenna patterns) and the beam-forming WERA (median range, effective depth of 0.9 m, and integration time of 1 h), both HF radar systems demonstrated good surface current mapping capability. The differences between the velocities measured with the HF radar and the ADCP are sufficiently small in this low-energy shelf that much of these rmsd values may be accounted for by the expected measurement differences due to the horizontal, vertical, and temporal sampling differences of the ocean current observing systems used.

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Yang Yang
,
Robert H. Weisberg
,
Yonggang Liu
, and
X. San Liang

Abstract

A recently developed tool, the multiscale window transform, along with the theory of canonical energy transfer is used to investigate the roles of multiscale interactions and instabilities in the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current (LC) eddy shedding. A three-scale energetics framework is employed, in which the LC system is reconstructed onto a background flow window, a mesoscale eddy window, and a high-frequency eddy window. The canonical energy transfer between the background flow and the mesoscale windows plays an important role in LC eddy shedding. Barotropic instability contributes to the generation/intensification of the mesoscale eddies over the eastern continental slope of the Campeche Bank. Baroclinic instability favors the growth of the mesoscale eddies that propagate downstream to the northeastern portion of the well-extended LC, eventually causing the shedding by cutting through the neck of the LC. These upper-layer mesoscale eddies lose their kinetic energy back to the background LC through inverse cascade processes in the neck region. The deep eddies obtain energy primarily from the upper layer through vertical pressure work and secondarily from baroclinic instability in the deep layer. In contrast, the canonical energy transfer between the mesoscale and the high-frequency frontal eddy windows accounts for only a small fraction in the mesoscale eddy energy balance, and this generally acts as a damping mechanism for the mesoscale eddies. A budget analysis reveals that the mesoscale eddy energy gained through the instabilities is balanced by horizontal advection, pressure work, and dissipation.

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Meghan F. Cronin
,
Michael J. McPhaden
, and
Robert H. Weisberg

Abstract

Upper-ocean zonal currents in the western equatorial Pacific are remarkably variable, changing direction both with time and depth. As a part of the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment, an enhanced monitoring array of moorings measured the upper-ocean velocity, temperature, salinity, and, surface meteorological conditions in the western equatorial Pacific for two years (March 1992–April 1994). Data from this array are used to evaluate the zonal momentum balance. Although nonlinear terms (zonal, meridional, and vertical advection) were at times large, reversing jets were primarily due to an interplay between wind forcing and compensating pressure gradients. In the weakly stratified surface layer, the flow is to a large extent directly forced by local winds. Eastward acceleration associated with westerly wind bursts and westward accelerations associated with easterly trades lead to frequent reversals in the surface-layer flow. However, pressure gradients set up by the wind bursts partially compensate the local wind forcing in the surface layer. Below the surface layer, these pressure gradients tend to accelerate the upper-thermocline flow in a direction opposing the local winds. Consequently, during westerly wind bursts, a reversing jet structure can develop, with a surface eastward current overlying a westward intermediate layer flow, overlaying the eastward Equatorial Undercurrent.

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Robert W. Helber
,
Robert H. Weisberg
,
Fabrice Bonjean
,
Eric S. Johnson
, and
Gary S. E. Lagerloef

Abstract

The relationships between tropical Atlantic Ocean surface currents and horizontal (mass) divergence, sea surface temperature (SST), and winds on monthly-to-annual time scales are described for the time period from 1993 through 2003. Surface horizontal mass divergence (upwelling) is calculated using surface currents estimated from satellite sea surface height, surface vector wind, and SST data with a quasi-linear, steady-state model. Geostrophic and Ekman dynamical contributions are considered. The satellite-derived surface currents match climatological drifter and ship-drift currents well, and divergence patterns are consistent with the annual north–south movement of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and equatorial cold tongue evolution. While the zonal velocity component is strongest, the meridional velocity component controls divergence along the equator and to the north beneath the ITCZ. Zonal velocity divergence is weaker but nonnegligible. Along the equator, a strong divergence (upwelling) season in the central/eastern equatorial Atlantic peaks in May while equatorial SST is cooling within the cold tongue. In addition, a secondary weaker and shorter equatorial divergence occurs in November also coincident with a slight SST cooling. The vertical transport at 30-m depth, averaged across the equatorial Atlantic Ocean between 2°S and 2°N for the record length, is 15(±6) × 106 m3 s−1. Results are consistent with what is known about equatorial upwelling and cold tongue evolution and establish a new method for observing the tropical upper ocean relative to geostrophic and Ekman dynamics at spatial and temporal coverage characteristic of satellite-based observations.

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Lynn K. Shay
,
Jorge Martinez-Pedraja
,
Thomas M. Cook
,
Brian K. Haus
, and
Robert H. Weisberg

Abstract

A dual-station high-frequency Wellen Radar (WERA), transmitting at 16.045 MHz, was deployed along the west Florida shelf in phased array mode during the summer of 2003. A 33-day, continuous time series of radial and vector surface current fields was acquired starting on 23 August ending 25 September 2003. Over a 30-min sample interval, WERA mapped coastal ocean currents over an ≈40 km × 80 km footprint with a 1.2-km horizontal resolution. A total of 1628 snapshots of the vector surface currents was acquired, with only 70 samples (4.3%) missing from the vector time series. Comparisons to subsurface measurements from two moored acoustic Doppler current profilers revealed RMS differences of 1 to 5 cm s−1 for both radial and Cartesian current components. Regression analyses indicated slopes close to unity with small biases between surface and subsurface measurements at 4-m depth in the east–west (u) and north–south (υ) components, respectively. Vector correlation coefficients were 0.9 with complex phases of −3° and 5° at EC4 (20-m isobath) and NA2 (25-m isobath) moorings, respectively.

Complex surface circulation patterns were observed that included tidal and wind-driven currents over the west Florida shelf. Tidal current amplitudes were 4 to 5 cm s−1 for the diurnal and semidiurnal constituents. Vertical structure of these tidal currents indicated that the semidiurnal components were predominantly barotropic whereas diurnal tidal currents had more of a baroclinic component. Tidal currents were removed from the observed current time series and were compared to the 10-m adjusted winds at a surface mooring. Based on these time series comparisons, regression slopes were 0.02 to 0.03 in the east–west and north–south directions, respectively. During Tropical Storm Henri’s passage on 5 September 2003, cyclonically rotating surface winds forced surface velocities of more than 35 cm s−1 as Henri made landfall north of Tampa Bay, Florida. These results suggest that the WERA measured the surface velocity well under weak to tropical storm wind conditions.

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Yonggang Liu
,
Robert H. Weisberg
,
Clifford R. Merz
,
Sage Lichtenwalner
, and
Gary J. Kirkpatrick

Abstract

Three long-range (5 MHz) Coastal Ocean Dynamics Application Radar (CODAR) SeaSonde HF radars overlooking an array of as many as eight moored acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) have operated on the West Florida Shelf since September 2003 for the purpose of observing the coastal ocean currents. HF radar performance on this low-energy (currents and waves) continental shelf is evaluated with respect to data returns, the rms differences between the HF radar and the ADCP radial currents, bearing offsets, and radial velocity uncertainties. Possible environmental factors affecting the HF radar performance are discussed, with the findings that both the low-energy sea state and the unfavorable surface wave directions are the main limiting factors for these HF radar observations of currents on the WFS. Despite the challenge of achieving continuous backscatter from this low-energy environment, when acquired the data quality is good in comparison with the ADCP measurements. The rms differences range from 6 to 10 cm s−1 for hourly and from 3 to 6 cm s−1 for 36-h low-pass-filtered radial currents, respectively. Bearing offsets are in the range from −15° to +9°. Coherent variations of the HF radar and ADCP radial currents are seen across both tidal and subtidal frequency bands. By examining the HF radar radial velocities at low wave energy, it is found that the data returns decrease rapidly for significant wave heights smaller than 1 m, and that the rms differences between the HF radar and ADCP radials are degraded when the significant wave height is smaller than 0.3 m.

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Yang Yang
,
James C. McWilliams
,
X. San Liang
,
Hong Zhang
,
Robert H. Weisberg
,
Yonggang Liu
, and
Dimitris Menemenlis

Abstract

The submesoscale energetics of the eastern Gulf of Mexico (GoM) are diagnosed using outputs from a 1/48° MITgcm simulation. Employed is a recently developed, localized multiscale energetics formalism with three temporal-scale ranges (or scale windows), namely, a background flow window, a mesoscale window, and a submesoscale window. It is found that the energy cascades are highly inhomogeneous in space. Over the eastern continental slope of the Campeche Bank, the submesoscale eddies are generated via barotropic instability, with forward cascades of kinetic energy (KE) following a weak seasonal variation. In the deep basin of the eastern GoM, the submesoscale KE exhibits a seasonal cycle, peaking in winter, maintained via baroclinic instability, with forward available potential energy (APE) cascades in the mixed layer, followed by a strong buoyancy conversion. A spatially coherent pool of inverse KE cascade is found to extract energy from the submesoscale KE reservoir in this region to replenish the background flow. The northern GoM features the strongest submesoscale signals with a similar seasonality as seen in the deep basin. The dominant source for the submesoscale KE during winter is from buoyancy conversion and also from the forward KE cascades from mesoscale processes. To maintain the balance, the excess submesoscale KE must be dissipated by smaller-scale processes via a forward cascade, implying a direct route to finescale dissipation. Our results highlight that the role of submesoscale turbulence in the ocean energy cycle is region and time dependent.

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