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Kunio M. Sayanagi, Raúl Morales-Juberías, and Andrew P. Ingersoll

Abstract

Voyager observations of Saturn in 1980–81 discovered a wavy feature engirdling the planet at 47°N planetographic latitude. Its latitude coincides with that of an eastward jet stream, which is the second fastest on Saturn after the equatorial jet. The 47°N jet’s wavy morphology is unique among the known atmospheric jets on the gas giant planets. Since the Voyagers, it has been seen in every high-resolution image of this latitude for over 25 years and has been termed the Ribbon. The Ribbon has been interpreted as a dynamic instability in the jet stream. This study tests this interpretation and uses forward modeling to explore the observed zonal wind profile’s stability properties. Unforced, initial-value numerical experiments are performed to examine the nonlinear evolution of the jet stream. Parameter variations show that an instability occurs when the 47°N jet causes reversals in the potential vorticity (PV) gradient, which constitutes a violation of the Charney–Stern stability criterion. After the initial instability development, the simulations demonstrate that the instability’s amplitude nonlinearly saturates to a constant when the eddy generation by the instability is balanced by the destruction of the eddies. When the instability saturates, the zonal wind profile approaches neutral stability according to Arnol’d’s second criterion, and the jet’s path meanders in a Ribbon-like manner. It is demonstrated that the meandering of the 47°N jet occurs over a range of tropospheric static stability and background wind speed. The results here show that a nonlinearly saturated shear instability in the 47°N jet is a viable mechanism to produce the Ribbon morphology. Observations do not yet have the temporal coverage to confirm the creation and destruction of eddies, but these simulations predict that this is actively occurring in the Ribbon region. Similarities exist between the behaviors found in this model and the dynamics of PV fronts studied in the context of meandering western boundary currents in Earth’s oceans. In addition, the simulations capture the nonlinear aspects of a new feature discovered by the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), the String of Pearls, which resides in the equatorward tip of the 47°N jet. The Explicit Planetary Isentropic Coordinate (EPIC) model is used herein.

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Zhan Su, Andrew P. Ingersoll, Andrew L. Stewart, and Andrew F. Thompson

Abstract

The energetics of thermobaricity- and cabbeling-powered deep convection occurring in oceans with cold freshwater overlying warm salty water are investigated here. These quasi-two-layer profiles are widely observed in wintertime polar oceans. The key diagnostic is the ocean convective available potential energy (OCAPE), a concept introduced in a companion piece to this paper (Part I). For an isolated ocean column, OCAPE arises from thermobaricity and is the maximum potential energy (PE) that can be converted into kinetic energy (KE) under adiabatic vertical parcel rearrangements. This study explores the KE budget of convection using two-dimensional numerical simulations and analytical estimates. The authors find that OCAPE is a principal source for KE. However, the complete conversion of OCAPE to KE is inhibited by diabatic processes. Further, this study finds that diabatic processes produce three other distinct contributions to the KE budget: (i) a sink of KE due to the reduction of stratification by vertical mixing, which raises water column’s center of mass and thus acts to convert KE to PE; (ii) a source of KE due to cabbeling-induced shrinking of the water column’s volume when water masses with different temperatures are mixed, which lowers the water column’s center of mass and thus acts to convert PE into KE; and (iii) a reduced production of KE due to diabatic energy conversion of the KE convertible part of the PE to the KE inconvertible part of the PE. Under some simplifying assumptions, the authors also propose a theory to estimate the maximum depth of convection from an energetic perspective. This study provides a potential basis for improving the convection parameterization in ocean models.

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Zhan Su, Andrew P. Ingersoll, Andrew L. Stewart, and Andrew F. Thompson

Abstract

Thermobaric convection (type II convection) and thermobaric cabbeling (type III convection) might substantially contribute to vertical mixing, vertical heat transport, and deep-water formation in the World Ocean. However, the extent of this contribution remains poorly constrained. The concept of ocean convective available potential energy (OCAPE), the thermobaric energy source for type II and type III convection, is introduced to improve the diagnosis and prediction of these convection events. OCAPE is analogous to atmospheric CAPE, which is a key energy source for atmospheric moist convection and has long been used to forecast moist convection. OCAPE is the potential energy (PE) stored in an ocean column arising from thermobaricity, defined as the difference between the PE of the ocean column and its minimum possible PE under adiabatic vertical parcel rearrangements. An ocean column may be stably stratified and still have nonzero OCAPE. The authors present an efficient strategy for computing OCAPE accurately for any given column of seawater. They further derive analytical expressions for OCAPE for approximately two-layer ocean columns that are widely observed in polar oceans. This elucidates the dependence of OCAPE on key physical parameters. Hydrographic profiles from the winter Weddell Sea are shown to contain OCAPE (0.001–0.01 J kg−1), and scaling analysis suggests that OCAPE may be substantially enhanced by wintertime surface buoyancy loss. The release of this OCAPE may substantially contribute to the kinetic energy of deep convection in polar oceans.

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