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  • Author or Editor: Robert H. Weisberg x
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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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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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