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Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

Free oscillations in square, midlatitude basins with continental shelves and planetary vorticity gradients are numerically computed using the nondivergent shallow-water equations. The topography may rend a planetary mode into a family of basinwide modes, each comparable to the flat-bottom counterpart in frequency and midbasin structure. This phenomenon can be interpreted in terms of coupled planetary wave-shelf wave oscillations. The mechanism provides an alternative to strong dissipation in explaining broadbanded planetary-wave signals signals observed in tide guage records.

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Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

Forced, nonresonant barotropic response at low frequencies (ω ≪ f) and large scales (Lf/β) can be written in terms of a streamfunction, which is similar to the quasigeostrophically derived streamfunction. However, the “nearly equilibrium” forced vorticity equation is valid on the planetary length scale and is influenced not only by the vortex stretching induced by the driving mechanism (tides, atmospheric pressure, or Ekman-pumping displacement) but also by β coupling to the divergent velocity field of the nearly equilibrium response. A similar result follows for topographic coupling, albeit on the topographic length scale.

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Hey-Jin Kim and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

The 55-yr California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) dataset in the southern California Current reveals a significant surface-intensified warming and stratification (buoyancy frequency) change across the 1976/77 climate regime shift. However, the average depth of the thermocline, defined as the maximum gradient of temperature, did not change significantly across the regime shift. The maximum-gradient criterion for thermocline depth may be more appropriate than following an isotherm because the isotherm necessarily deepens in the presence of surface-intensified warming. As the surface heating changed the strength of stratification, it also changed the slope of the nitrate–temperature relation for the middepth waters (roughly 30–200 m). Thus, the quality of upwelled water may have been fundamentally altered after the shift.

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Arthur J. Miller, Pierre F. J. Lermusiaux, and Pierre-Marie Poulain

Abstract

An array of current meter moorings along 12°W on the southern side of the lceland-Faeroe Ridge reveals a narrowband barotropic oscillation with period 1.8 days in spectra of velocity. The signal is coherent over at least 55-km scales and propagates phase with shallow water on the right (toward the northwest). Velocity ellipses tend to be elongated (crossing contours of f/H) and rotate anticyclonically. Solutions of the rigid-lid barotropic shallow-water equations predict the occurrence of a topographic-Rossby normal mode on the south side of the ridge with spatial scales exceeding 250 km and with intrinsic period near 1.84 days. This fundamental mode of the south side of the ridge has predicted spatial structure, phase propagation, and velocity ellipses consistent with the observed oscillation. The frictional amplitude e-folding decay time for this normal mode is estimated from the observations to be 13 days. The observed ocean currents are significantly coherent with zonal wind stress fluctuations (but not with wind stress curl) in the relevant period band, which indicates the oscillation is wind forced. This appears to be the first clear evidence of a stochastically forced resonant barotropic topographic-Rossby normal mode in the ocean.

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Antonietta Capotondi, Michael A. Alexander, Clara Deser, and Arthur J. Miller

Abstract

The output from an ocean general circulation model (OGCM) driven by observed surface forcing is used in conjunction with simpler dynamical models to examine the physical mechanisms responsible for interannual to interdecadal pycnocline variability in the northeast Pacific Ocean during 1958–97, a period that includes the 1976–77 climate shift. After 1977 the pycnocline deepened in a broad band along the coast and shoaled in the central part of the Gulf of Alaska. The changes in pycnocline depth diagnosed from the model are in agreement with the pycnocline depth changes observed at two ocean stations in different areas of the Gulf of Alaska. A simple Ekman pumping model with linear damping explains a large fraction of pycnocline variability in the OGCM. The fit of the simple model to the OGCM is maximized in the central part of the Gulf of Alaska, where the pycnocline variability produced by the simple model can account for ∼70%–90% of the pycnocline depth variance in the OGCM. Evidence of westward-propagating Rossby waves is found in the OGCM, but they are not the dominant signal. On the contrary, large-scale pycnocline depth anomalies have primarily a standing character, thus explaining the success of the local Ekman pumping model. The agreement between the Ekman pumping model and OGCM deteriorates in a large band along the coast, where propagating disturbances within the pycnocline, due to either mean flow advection or boundary waves, appear to play an important role in pycnocline variability. Coastal propagation of pycnocline depth anomalies is especially relevant in the western part of the Gulf of Alaska, where local Ekman pumping-induced changes are anticorrelated with the OGCM pycnocline depth variations. The pycnocline depth changes associated with the 1976–77 climate regime shift do not seem to be consistent with Sverdrup dynamics, raising questions about the nature of the adjustment of the Alaska Gyre to low-frequency wind stress variability.

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Niklas Schneider, Arthur J. Miller, Michael A. Alexander, and Clara Deser

Abstract

Observations of oceanic temperature in the upper 400 m reveal decadal signals that propagate in the thermocline along lines of constant potential vorticity from the ventilation region in the central North Pacific to approximately 18°N in the western Pacific. The propagation path and speed are well described by the geostrophic mean circulation and by a model of the ventilated thermocline. The approximate southward speed of the thermal signal of 7 mm s−1 yields a transit time of approximately eight years. The thermal anomalies appear to be forced by perturbations of the mixed layer heat budget in the subduction region of the central North Pacific east of the date line. A warm pulse was generated in the central North Pacific by a series of mild winters from 1973 to 1976 and reached 18°N around 1982. After 1978 a succession of colder winters initiated a cold anomaly in the central North Pacific that propagated along a similar path and with a similar speed as the warm anomaly, then arrived in the western tropical Pacific at 18°N around 1991. Tropical Ekman pumping, rather than further propagation of the midlatitude signal, caused the subsequent spread into the equatorial western Pacific and an increase in amplitude. Historical data show that anomalous sea surface temperature in the equatorial central Pacific is correlated with tropical Ekman pumping while the correlation with thermal anomalies in the North Pacific eight years earlier is not significant. These results indicate no significant coupling in the Pacific of Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes and the equatorial region via advection of thermal anomalies along the oceanic thermocline.

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Arthur J. Miller, Warren B. White, and Daniel R. Cayan

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The North Pacific thermocline (250 to 400 m) is studied using XBT observations acquired during the 1970s and 1980s. Interannual variations (3–5 yr timescales) in thermocline temperature, with O(0.1°C) amplitude at 400 m, are found to exhibit westward propagation throughout the extratropical North Pacific up to 45°N. Southward of 30°N, the features propagate intact across the basin from the eastern boundary to the western boundary. Northward of 30°N, the features can be observed to propagate only as far as the date line. The observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies are often related to tropical ENSO events in that they occur most strongly after the development of tropical El Niño or La Niña conditions and propagate westward from near the eastern boundary in the midlatitudes. But it is found that the observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies have larger phase speeds than theoretically predicted free baroclinic Rossby waves. Also, the observed anomalies have larger wavelength and faster propagation speeds than baroclinic Rossby waves that radiate from coastal Kelvin-like waves near the eastern boundary in well-known high-resolution models.

Large-scale thermocline fluctuations that have spatial scale and phase speeds similar to the observations are also found in a coarse-resolution model of the Pacific Ocean forced by observed wind and heat flux anomalies over the 1970–88 period. In the midlatitudes, north of 30°N, large-scale Ekman pumping by interannual wind stress curl variations provides a significant driving mechanism for the modeled large-scale thermocline anomalies. The modeled ocean response is a combination of the static thermocline response to large-scale Ekman pumping plus a train of westward traveling Rossby waves, which accounts for part of the propagating temperature fluctuations. A tropical, remotely forced component is prominant near the eastern boundary, but this only contributes weakly in the model open ocean.

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Arthur J. Miller, Douglas S. Luther, and Myrl C. Hendershott

Abstract

The fortnightly and monthly tides are discussed in the light of recent sea level observations and numerical modeling results. Within the tide gauge network of the low-latitude Pacific, the fortnightly tide is shown to possess a large-scale phase lag of roughly 10–40 degrees. Although the nonequilibrium part of the fortnightly tide is traditionally thought to be dominated by Rossby wave dynamics, it is shown, via global shallow-water modeling studies, that this large-scale phase lag is explicable in terms of remotely forced gravity waves whose origin is mainly in the Arctic Ocean. Although future observations outside the low-latitude region of the Pacific may eventually reveal Rossby wave excitation, the fortnightly tidal signal in the tide gauge network at hand appears to reveal at most only weak excitation of Rossby waves compared to the phase lag due to remotely forced gravity waves. The observed monthly tide appears to be only slightly closer to equilibrium than the fortnightly tide. The reason for this remains unclear since the monthly tide is less affected by the remotely forced gravity waves than the fortnightly tide.

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Arthur J. Miller, Tim P. Barnett, and Nicholas E. Graham

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Tropical Pacific SST hindcasts are examined in the Zebiak and Cane (Lamont), Latif (MPIZ), Oberhuber (OPYC), and GFDL ocean models, each forced by the same wind-stress fields over the 1970–85 time interval. Skill scores reveal that, although all the models exhibit significant skill, the regions where the skill is maximized differ from model to model. The simplest model (Lamont) has maximum skills in the eastern basin near the boundary while the three GCMs have maxima in central Pacific regions. We also examine, via canonical correlation analysis (CCA), the heat budgets of the surface layers of the Lamont, MPIZ, and OPYC models. We find that although similar spatial relationships exist for the mechanisms that excite SST anomalies (i.e., zonal advection, meridional advection, and vertical advection/mixing), the balance of the strength of them terms is different for each model. Vertical advection tends to control the large-scale structure of SST in the Lamont model, meridional advection provides the dominant large-scale forcing for SST anomalies in the MPIZ model, and all three terms are important in the region of developing SST in the OPYC model. CCA reconstructions of the El Niño events of 1972–73 and 1982–83 reveal that the Lamont model does not exhibit any clear eastward propagation of SST; the MPIZ model propagates SST anomalies eastward for both the 1972–73 and 1982–83 El Niño events while the OPYC model propagates SST eastward for the 1982–83 El Niño and develops SST in place for the 1972–73 El Niño.

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Hyodae Seo, Arthur J. Miller, and Joel R. Norris

Abstract

The summertime California Current System (CCS) is characterized by energetic mesoscale eddies, whose sea surface temperature (SST) and surface current can significantly modify the wind stress and Ekman pumping. Relative importance of the eddy–wind interactions via SST and surface current in the CCS is examined using a high-resolution (7 km) regional coupled model with a novel coupling approach to isolate the small-scale air–sea coupling by SST and surface current. Results show that when the eddy-induced surface current is allowed to modify the wind stress, the spatially averaged surface eddy kinetic energy (EKE) is reduced by 42%, and this is primarily due to enhanced surface eddy drag and reduced wind energy transfer. In contrast, the eddy-induced SST–wind coupling has no significant impact on the EKE. Furthermore, eddy-induced SST and surface current modify the Ekman pumping via their crosswind SST gradient and surface vorticity gradient, respectively. The resultant magnitudes of the Ekman pumping velocity are comparable, but the implied feedback effects on the eddy statistics are different. The surface current-induced Ekman pumping mainly attenuates the amplitude of cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies, acting to reduce the eddy activity, while the SST-induced Ekman pumping primarily affects the propagation. Time mean–rectified change in SST is determined by the altered offshore temperature advection by the mean and eddy currents, but the magnitude of the mean SST change is greater with the eddy-induced current effect. The demonstrated remarkably strong dynamical response in the CCS system to the eddy-induced current–wind coupling indicates that eddy-induced current should play an important role in the regional coupled ocean–atmosphere system.

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