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Louise Rousselet
,
Paola Cessi
, and
Matthew R. Mazloff

Abstract

The origins of the upper limb of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and the partition among different routes has been quantified with models at eddy-permitting and one eddy-resolving model or with low-resolution models assimilating observations. Here, a step toward bridging this gap is taken by using the Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE) at the eddy-permitting 1/6° horizontal resolution to compute Lagrangian diagnostics from virtual particle trajectories advected between 6.7°S and two meridional sections: one at Drake Passage (cold route) and the other from South Africa to Antarctica (warm route). Our results agree with the prevailing concept attributing the largest transport contribution to the warm route with 12.3 Sv (88%) (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) compared with 1.7 Sv (12%) for the cold route. These results are compared with a similar Lagrangian experiment performed with the lower-resolution state estimate from Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean. Eulerian and Lagrangian means highlight an overall increase in the transport of the major South Atlantic currents with finer resolution, resulting in a relatively larger contribution from the cold route. In particular, the Malvinas Current to Antarctic Circumpolar Current (MC/ACC) ratio plays a more important role on the routes partition than the increased Agulhas Leakage. The relative influence of the mean flow versus the eddy flow on the routes partition is investigated by computing the mean and eddy kinetic energies and the Lagrangian-based eddy diffusivity. Lagrangian diffusivity estimates are largest in the Agulhas and Malvinas regions but advection by the mean flow dominates everywhere.

Open access
Paola Cessi
,
Christopher L. Wolfe
, and
Bonnie C. Ludka

Abstract

A model of the thermocline linearized around a specified stratification and the barotropic linear wind-driven Stommel solution is constructed. The forcings are both mechanical (the surface wind stress) and thermodynamical (the surface buoyancy boundary condition). The effects of diapycnal diffusivity and of eddy fluxes of buoyancy, parameterized in terms of the large-scale buoyancy gradient, are included. The eddy fluxes of buoyancy are especially important near the boundaries where they mediate the transport in and out of the narrow ageostrophic down-/upwelling layers. The dynamics of these narrow layers can be replaced by effective boundary conditions on the geostrophically balanced flow. The effective boundary conditions state that the residual flow normal to the effective coast vanishes. The separate Eulerian and eddy-induced components may be nonzero. This formulation conserves the total mass and the total buoyancy while permitting an exchange between the Eulerian and eddy transport of buoyancy within the down-/upwelling layers. In turn, this exchange allows buoyancy gradients along all solid boundaries, including the eastern one. A special focus is on the buoyancy along the eastern and western walls since east–west buoyancy difference determines the meridional overturning circulation.

The inclusion of advection of buoyancy by the barotropic flow allows a meaningful distinction between the meridional and the residual overturning circulations while retaining the simplicity of a linear model. The residual flow in both meridional and zonal directions reveals how the subsurface buoyancy distribution is established and, in particular, how the meridional buoyancy gradient is reversed at depth. In turn, the horizontal buoyancy gradient maintains stacked counterrotating cells in the meridional and residual overturning circulations. Quantitative scaling arguments are given for each of these cells, which show how the buoyancy forcing, the wind stress, and the diapycnal and eddy diffusivities, as well as the other imposed parameters, affect the strength of the overturn.

Full access
Paola Cessi
,
W. R. Young
, and
Jeff A. Polton

Abstract

The equilibrium of an idealized flow driven at the surface by wind stress and rapid relaxation to nonuniform buoyancy is analyzed in terms of entropy production, mechanical energy balance, and heat transport. The flow is rapidly rotating, and dissipation is provided by bottom drag. Diabatic forcing is transmitted from the surface by isotropic diffusion of buoyancy. The domain is periodic so that zonal averaging provides a useful decomposition of the flow into mean and eddy components. The statistical equilibrium is characterized by quantities such as the lateral buoyancy flux and the thermocline depth; here, scaling laws are proposed for these quantities in terms of the external parameters. The scaling theory predicts relations between heat transport, thermocline depth, bottom drag, and diapycnal diffusivity, which are confirmed by numerical simulations. The authors find that the depth of the thermocline is independent of the diapycnal mixing to leading order, but depends on the bottom drag. This dependence arises because the mean stratification is due to a balance between the large-scale wind-driven heat transport and the heat transport due to baroclinic eddies. The eddies equilibrate at an amplitude that depends to leading order on the bottom drag. The net poleward heat transport is a residual between the mean and eddy heat transports. The size of this residual is determined by the details of the diapycnal diffusivity. If the diffusivity is uniform (as in laboratory experiments) then the heat transport is linearly proportional to the diffusivity. If a mixed layer is incorporated by greatly increasing the diffusivity in a thin surface layer then the net heat transport is dominated by the model mixed layer.

Full access
Christopher L. Wolfe
,
Paola Cessi
, and
Bruce D. Cornuelle

Abstract

An intrinsic mode of self-sustained, interannual variability is identified in a coarse-resolution ocean model forced by an annually repeating atmospheric state. The variability has maximum loading in the Indian Ocean, with a significant projection into the South Atlantic Ocean. It is argued that this intrinsic mode is caused by baroclinic instability of the model’s Leeuwin Current, which radiates out to the tropical Indian and South Atlantic Oceans as long Rossby waves at a period of 4 yr. This previously undescribed mode has a remarkably narrowband time series. However, the variability is not synchronized with the annual cycle; the phase of the oscillation varies chaotically on decadal time scales. The presence of this internal mode reduces the predictability of the ocean circulation by obscuring the response to forcing or initial condition perturbations. The signature of this mode can be seen in higher-resolution global ocean models driven by high-frequency atmospheric forcing, but altimeter and assimilation analyses do not show obvious signatures of such a mode, perhaps because of insufficient duration.

Full access
Nadia Pinardi
,
Paola Cessi
,
Federica Borile
, and
Christopher L. P. Wolfe

Abstract

The time-mean zonal and meridional overturning circulations of the entire Mediterranean Sea are studied in both the Eulerian and residual frameworks. The overturning is characterized by cells in the vertical and either zonal or meridional planes with clockwise circulations in the upper water column and counterclockwise circulations in the deep and abyssal regions. The zonal overturning is composed of an upper clockwise cell in the top 600 m of the water column related to the classical Wüst cell and two additional deep clockwise cells, one corresponding to the outflow of the dense Aegean water during the Eastern Mediterranean Transient (EMT) and the other associated with dense water formation in the Rhodes Gyre. The variability of the zonal overturning before, during, and after the EMT is discussed. The meridional basinwide overturning is composed of clockwise, multicentered cells connected with the four northern deep ocean formation areas, located in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean basins. The connection between the Wüst cell and the meridional overturning is visualized through the horizontal velocities vertically integrated across two layers above 600 m. The component of the horizontal velocity associated with the overturning is isolated by computing the divergent components of the vertically integrated velocities forced by the inflow/outflow at the Strait of Gibraltar.

Open access
Jerome A. Smith
,
Paola Cessi
,
Ilker Fer
,
Gregory Foltz
,
Baylor Fox-Kemper
,
Karen Heywood
,
Nicole Jones
,
Jody Klymak
, and
Joseph LaCasce
Open access