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Gillian M. Damerell, Karen J. Heywood, David P. Stevens, and Alberto C. Naveira Garabato

Abstract

Diapycnal mixing rates in the oceans have been shown to have a great deal of spatial variability, but the temporal variability has been little studied. Here results are presented from a method developed to calculate diapycnal diffusivity from moored acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) velocity shear profiles. An 18-month time series of diffusivity is presented from data taken by a LongRanger ADCP moored at 2400-m depth, 600 m above the seafloor, in Shag Rocks Passage, a deep passage in the North Scotia Ridge (Southern Ocean). The Polar Front is constrained to pass through this passage, and the strong currents and complex topography are expected to result in enhanced mixing. The spatial distribution of diffusivity in Shag Rocks Passage deduced from lowered ADCP shear is consistent with published values for similar regions, with diffusivity possibly as large as 90 × 10−4 m2 s−1 near the seafloor, decreasing to the expected background level of ~0.1 × 10−4 m2 s−1 in areas away from topography. The moored ADCP profiles spanned a depth range of 2400–1800 m; thus, the moored time series was obtained from a region of moderately enhanced diffusivity.

The diffusivity time series has a median of 3.3 × 10−4 m2 s−1 and a range from 0.5 × 10−4 to 57 × 10−4 m2 s−1. There is no significant signal at annual or semiannual periods, but there is evidence of signals at periods of approximately 14 days (likely due to the spring–neap tidal cycle) and at periods of 3.8 and 2.6 days most likely due to topographically trapped waves propagating around the local seamount. Using the observed stratification and an axisymmetric seamount, of similar dimensions to the one west of the mooring, in a model of baroclinic topographically trapped waves, produces periods of 3.8 and 2.6 days, in agreement with the signals observed. The diffusivity is anticorrelated with the rotary coefficient (indicating that stronger mixing occurs during times of upward energy propagation), which suggests that mixing occurs due to the breaking of internal waves generated at topography.

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Michael P. Meredith, John M. Vassie, Robert Spencer, and Karen J. Heywood

Abstract

Bottom pressure recorders (BPRs) have been deployed at Drake Passage (DP) to monitor changes in the volume transport of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) through the passage. The use of inverted echo sounders (IESs) in assisting the interpretation of the BPR data is presented. The initial data processing of the IES data is outlined, and the accuracy of the data described. The most significant limitation on the application of the data is the presence of a sea-state bias with a root-mean-square value of around 0.4 ms. IES data are shown to perform well at determining whether individual changes in bottom pressure are due to changes in cross-passage-averaged barotropic transport or due to the effect of meanders, eddies, and/or lateral shifts of ACC fronts.

The conversion of acoustic travel time to more useful oceanographic parameters (dynamic height, baroclinic pressure, inverse-barometer-corrected sea level) is described. A method for improving the performance of very deep bottom pressure in monitoring ACC barotropic transport changes is described for the case where the BPR–IES instrumentation is deployed near an ACC front. Reasons for the inability of this method to improve the ability of shallower pressure records in monitoring the ACC are discussed, and suggestions for future refinements are outlined.

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Michel Arhan, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, Karen J. Heywood, and David P. Stevens

Abstract

Hydrographic and lowered acoustic Doppler current profiler data along a line from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia via the Maurice Ewing Bank are used to estimate the flow of circumpolar water into the Argentine Basin, and to study the interaction of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current with the Falkland Plateau.

The estimated net transport of 129 ± 21 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) across the section is shared between three major current bands. One is associated with the Subantarctic Front (SAF; 52 ± 6 Sv), and the other two with branches of the Polar Front (PF) over the sill of the Falkland Plateau (44 ± 9 Sv) and in the northwestern Georgia Basin (45 ± 9 Sv). The latter includes a local reinforcement (∼20 Sv) by a deep anticyclonic recirculation around the Maurice Ewing Bank. While the classical hydrographic signature of the PF stands out in this eastbound branch, it is less distinguishable in the northbound branch over the plateau. Other circulation features are a southward entrainment of diluted North Atlantic Deep Water from the Argentine Basin over the eastern part of the Falkland Plateau, and an abyssal anticyclonic flow in the western Georgia Basin, opposite to what was generally assumed.

The different behavior of the SAF and PF at the Falkland Plateau (no structural modification of the former and partitioning of the latter) is attributed to the PF being deeper than the sill depth on the upstream side of the plateau, unlike the SAF. It is suggested that the partitioning takes place at a location where the 2500-m and 3000-m isobaths diverge at the southern edge of the plateau. The western branch of the PF crosses the plateau at a distance of ∼250 km to the east of the SAF. Comparison with a section across the Falkland Current farther downstream shows that its deep part subsequently joins the SAF on the northern side of the plateau where the 2000–3000 m isobaths converge in the steep Falkland Escarpment. The result of this two-stage bathymetric effect is a net transfer of at least 10 Sv from the PF to the SAF at the crossing of the Falkland Plateau.

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Pierre Cauchy, Karen J. Heywood, Nathan D. Merchant, Bastien Y. Queste, and Pierre Testor

Abstract

Wind speed measurements are needed to understand ocean–atmosphere coupling processes and their effects on climate. Satellite observations provide sufficient spatial and temporal coverage but are lacking adequate calibration, while ship- and mooring-based observations are spatially limited and have technical shortcomings. However, wind-generated underwater noise can be used to measure wind speed, a method known as Weather Observations Through Ambient Noise (WOTAN). Here, we adapt the WOTAN technique for application to ocean gliders, enabling calibrated wind speed measurements to be combined with contemporaneous oceanographic profiles over extended spatial and temporal scales. We demonstrate the methodology in three glider surveys in the Mediterranean Sea during winter 2012/13. Wind speeds ranged from 2 to 21.5 m s−1, and the relationship to underwater ambient noise measured from the glider was quantified. A two-regime linear model is proposed, which validates a previous linear model for light winds (below 12 m s−1) and identifies a regime change in the noise generation mechanism at higher wind speeds. This proposed model improves on previous work by extending the validated model range to strong winds of up to 21.5 m s−1. The acquisition, data processing, and calibration steps are described. Future applications for glider-based wind speed observations and the development of a global wind speed estimation model are discussed.

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Madeleine K. Youngs, Andrew F. Thompson, M. Mar Flexas, and Karen J. Heywood

Abstract

The complex export pathways that connect the surface waters of the Weddell Sea with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current influence water mass modification, nutrient fluxes, and ecosystem dynamics. To study this exchange, 40 surface drifters, equipped with temperature sensors, were released into the northwestern Weddell Sea’s continental shelf and slope frontal system in late January 2012. Comparison of the drifter trajectories with a similar deployment in early February 2007 provides insight into the interannual variability of the surface circulation in this region. Observed differences in the 2007 and 2012 drifter trajectories are related to a variable surface circulation responding to changes in wind stress curl over the Weddell Gyre. Differences between northwestern Weddell Sea properties in 2007 and 2012 include 1) an enhanced cyclonic wind stress forcing over the Weddell Gyre in 2012; 2) an acceleration of the Antarctic Slope Current (ASC) and an offshore shift of the primary drifter export pathway in 2012; and 3) a strengthening of the Coastal Current (CC) over the continental shelf in 2007. The relationship between wind stress forcing and surface circulation is reproduced over a longer time period in virtual drifter deployments advected by a remotely sensed surface velocity product. The mean offshore position and speed of the drifter trajectories are correlated with the wind stress curl over the Weddell Gyre, although with different temporal lags. The drifter observations are consistent with recent modeling studies suggesting that Weddell Sea boundary current variability can significantly impact the rate and source of exported surface waters to the Scotia Sea, a process that determines regional chlorophyll distributions.

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Marina Frants, Gillian M. Damerell, Sarah T. Gille, Karen J. Heywood, Jennifer MacKinnon, and Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Finescale estimates of diapycnal diffusivity κ are computed from CTD and expendable CTD (XCTD) data sampled in Drake Passage and in the eastern Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean and are compared against microstructure measurements from the same times and locations. The microstructure data show vertical diffusivities that are one-third to one-fifth as large over the smooth abyssal plain in the southeastern Pacific as they are in Drake Passage, where diffusivities are thought to be enhanced by the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current over rough topography. Finescale methods based on vertical strain estimates are successful at capturing the spatial variability between the low-mixing regime in the southeastern Pacific and the high-mixing regime of Drake Passage. Thorpe-scale estimates for the same dataset fail to capture the differences between Drake Passage and eastern Pacific estimates. XCTD profiles have lower vertical resolution and higher noise levels after filtering than CTD profiles, resulting in XCTD κ estimates that are, on average, an order of magnitude higher than CTD estimates. Overall, microstructure diffusivity estimates are better matched by strain-based estimates than by estimates based on Thorpe scales, and CTD data appear to perform better than XCTD data. However, even the CTD-based strain diffusivity estimates can differ from microstructure diffusivities by nearly an order of magnitude, suggesting that density-based fine-structure methods of estimating mixing from CTD or XCTD data have real limitations in low-stratification regimes such as the Southern Ocean.

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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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Marina Azaneu, Karen J. Heywood, Bastien Y. Queste, and Andrew F. Thompson

Abstract

The dense water outflow from the Antarctic continental shelf is closely associated with the strength and position of the Antarctic Slope Front. This study explores the short-term and spatial variability of the Antarctic Slope Front system and the mechanisms that regulate cross-slope exchange using highly temporally and spatially resolved measurements from three ocean gliders deployed in 2012. The 22 sections along the eastern Antarctic Peninsula and west of the South Orkney Islands are grouped regionally and composited by isobaths. There is consistency in the front position around the Powell Basin, varying mostly between the 500- and 800-m isobaths. In most of the study area the flow is bottom intensified. The along-slope transport of the Antarctic Slope Current (upper 1000 m) varies between 0.2 and 5.9 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) and does not exhibit a regional pattern. The magnitude of the velocity field shows substantial variability, up to twice its mean value. Higher eddy kinetic energy (0.003 m2 s−2) is observed in sections with dense water, possibly because of baroclinic instabilities in the bottom layer. Distributions of potential vorticity show an increase toward the shelf along isopycnals and also in the dense water layer. Glider sections located west of the South Orkney Islands indicate a northward direction of the flow associated with the Weddell Front, which differs from previous estimates of the mean circulation. This study provides some of the first observational confirmation of the high-frequency variability associated with an active eddy field that has been suggested by recent numerical simulations in this region.

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Louise C. Sime, David P. Stevens, Karen J. Heywood, and Kevin I. C. Oliver

Abstract

A decomposition of meridional overturning circulation (MOC) cells into geostrophic vertical shears, Ekman, and bottom pressure–dependent (or external mode) circulation components is presented. The decomposition requires the following information: 1) a density profile wherever bathymetry changes to construct the vertical shears component, 2) the zonal-mean zonal wind stress for the Ekman component, and 3) the mean depth-independent velocity information over each isobath to construct the external mode. The decomposition is applied to the third-generation Hadley Centre Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere General Circulation Model (HadCM3) to determine the meridional variability of these individual components within the Atlantic Ocean. The external mode component is shown to be extremely important where western boundary currents impinge on topography, and also in the area of the overflows. The Sverdrup balance explains the shape of the external mode MOC component to first order, but the time variability of the external mode exhibits only a very weak dependence on the wind stress curl. Thus, the Sverdrup balance cannot be used to determine the external mode changes when examining temporal change in the MOC. The vertical shears component allows the time-mean and the time-variable upper North Atlantic MOC cell to be deduced at 25°S and 50°N. A stronger dependency on the external mode and Ekman components between 8° and 35°N and in the regions of the overflows means that hydrographic sections need to be supplemented by bottom pressure and wind stress information at these latitudes. At the decadal time scale, variability in Ekman transport is less important than that in geostrophic shears. In the Southern Hemisphere the vertical shears component is dominant at all time scales, suggesting that hydrographic sections alone may be suitable for deducing change in the MOC at these latitudes.

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Loic Jullion, Karen J. Heywood, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, and David P. Stevens

Abstract

The confluence between the Brazil Current and the Malvinas Current [the Brazil–Malvinas Confluence (BMC)] in the Argentine Basin is characterized by a complicated thermohaline structure favoring the exchanges of mass, heat, and salt between the subtropical gyre and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Analysis of thermohaline properties of hydrographic sections in the BMC reveals strong interactions between the ACC and subtropical fronts. In the Subantarctic Front, Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW), Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW), and Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) warm (become saltier) by 0.4° (0.08), 0.3° (0.02), and 0.6°C (0.1), respectively. In the subtropical gyre, AAIW and North Atlantic Deep Water have cooled (freshened) by 0.4° (0.07) and 0.7°C (0.11), respectively.

To quantify those ACC–subtropical gyre interactions, a box inverse model surrounding the confluence is built. The model diagnoses a subduction of 16 ± 4 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) of newly formed SAMW and AAIW under the subtropical gyre corresponding to about half of the total subduction rate of the South Atlantic found in previous studies. Cross-frontal heat (0.06 PW) and salt (2.4 × 1012 kg s−1) gains by the ACC in the BMC contribute to the meridional poleward heat and salt fluxes across the ACC. These estimates correspond to perhaps half of the total cross-ACC poleward heat flux. The authors’ results highlight the BMC as a key region in the subtropical–ACC exchanges.

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