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  • Author or Editor: J. Carter Ohlmann x
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J. Carter Ohlmann and David A. Siegel

Abstract

Accurate determination of sea surface temperature (SST) is critical to the success of coupled ocean–atmosphere models and the understanding of global climate. To accurately predict SST, both the quantity of solar radiation incident at the sea surface and its divergence, or transmission, within the water column must be known. Net irradiance profiles modeled with a radiative transfer model are used to develop an empirical solar transmission parameterization that depends on upper ocean chlorophyll concentration, cloud amount, and solar zenith angle. These factors explain nearly all of the variations in solar transmission. The parameterization is developed by expressing each of the modeled irradiance profiles as a sum of four exponential terms. The fit parameters are then written as linear combinations of chlorophyll concentration and cloud amount under cloudy skies, and chlorophyll concentration and solar zenith angle during clear-sky periods. Model validation gives a climatological rms error profile that is less than 4 W m−2 throughout the water column (when normalized to a surface irradiance of 200 W m−2). Compared with existing solar transmission parameterizations this is a significant improvement in model skill. The two-equation solar transmission parameterization is incorporated into the TOGA COARE bulk flux model to quantify its effects on SST and subsequent rates of air–sea heat exchange during a low wind, high insolation period. The improved solar transmission parameterization gives a mean 12 W m−2 reduction in the quantity of solar radiation attenuated within the top few meters of the ocean compared with the transmission parameterization originally used. This results in instantaneous differences in SST and the net air–sea heat flux that often reach 0.2°C and 5 W m−2, respectively.

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J. Carter Ohlmann, Melanie R. Fewings, and Christopher Melton

Abstract

This study explores Eulerian and Lagrangian circulation during weak winds at two inner-shelf locations off the Southern California coast where the shoreline, shelf, wind, and wave characteristics differ from those in previous studies. In agreement with recent observational studies, wave-driven Eulerian offshore flow just outside the surf zone, referred to as undertow, is a substantial component of the net cross-shore circulation during periods of weak winds. Drifter observations show onshore surface flow, likely due to light onshore winds, and a consistent decrease in onshore velocity of roughly 4 cm s−1 within a few hundred meters of the surf zone. Undertow is examined as a possible explanation for the observed Lagrangian decelerations. Model results suggest that, even when waves are small, undertow can decrease the velocity of shoreward-moving drifters by >2 cm s−1, roughly half the observed deceleration. The coastal boundary condition also has the potential to contribute to the observed decelerations. Subtracting predicted Stokes drift velocities from the Lagrangian drifter observations improves the agreement between the drifter observations and coincident Eulerian ADCP observations.

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J. Carter Ohlmann, David A. Siegel, and Curtis D. Mobley

Abstract

Radiative transfer calculations are used to quantify the effects of physical and biological processes on variations in the transmission of solar radiation through the upper ocean. Results indicate that net irradiance at 10 cm and 5 m can vary by 23 and 34 W m−2, respectively, due to changes in the chlorophyll concentration, cloud amount, and solar zenith angle (when normalized to a climatological surface irradiance of 200 W m−2). Chlorophyll influences solar attenuation in the visible wavebands, and thus has little effect on transmission within the uppermost meter where the quantity of near-infrared energy is substantial. Beneath the top few meters, a chlorophyll increase from 0.03 to 0.3 mg m−3 can result in a solar flux decrease of more than 10 W m−2. Clouds alter the spectral composition of the incident irradiance by preferentially attenuating in the near-infrared region, and serve to increase solar transmission in the upper few meters as a greater portion of the irradiance exists in the deep-penetrating, visible wavebands. A 50% reduction in the incident irradiance by clouds causes a near 60% reduction in the radiant heating rate for the top 10 cm of the ocean. Solar zenith angle influences transmission during clear sky periods through changes in sea-surface albedo. This study provides necessary information for improved physically and biologically based solar transmission parameterizations that will enhance upper ocean modeling efforts and sea-surface temperature prediction.

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Gary A. Wick, J. Carter Ohlmann, Christopher W. Fairall, and Andrew T. Jessup

Abstract

The oceanic near-surface temperature profile must be accurately characterized to enable precise determination of air–sea heat exchange and satellite retrievals of sea surface temperature. An improved solar transmission parameterization is integrated into existing models for the oceanic warm layer and cool skin within the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) bulk flux model to improve the accuracy of predictions of the temperature profile and corresponding heat flux components. Application of the revised bulk flux model to data from 12 diverse cruises demonstrates that the improved parameterization results in significant changes to the predicted cool-skin effect and latent heat fluxes at low wind speeds with high solar radiation due to reduced absorption of solar radiation just below the surface. Daytime skin-layer cooling is predicted to increase by 0.03 K on average but by more than 0.25 K for winds below 1 m s−1 and surface irradiance exceeding 900 W m−2. Predicted changes to the warm-layer correction were smaller but exceeded 0.1 K below 1 m s−1. Average latent and sensible heat fluxes changed by 1 W m−2, but the latent flux decreased by 5 W m−2 near winds of 0.5 m s−1 and surface irradiance of 950 W m−2. Comparison with direct observations of skin-layer cooling demonstrated, in particular, that use of the improved solar transmission model resulted in the reduction of previous systematic overestimates of diurnal skin-layer warming. Similar results can be achieved using a simplified treatment of solar absorption with an appropriate estimate of the fraction of incident solar radiation absorbed within the skin layer.

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Leonel Romero, Yusuke Uchiyama, J. Carter Ohlmann, James C. McWilliams, and David A. Siegel

Abstract

Knowledge of horizontal relative dispersion in nearshore oceans is important for many applications including the transport and fate of pollutants and the dynamics of nearshore ecosystems. Two-particle dispersion statistics are calculated from millions of synthetic particle trajectories from high-resolution numerical simulations of the Southern California Bight. The model horizontal resolution of 250 m allows the investigation of the two-particle dispersion, with an initial pair separation of 500 m. The relative dispersion is characterized with respect to the coastal geometry, bathymetry, eddy kinetic energy, and the relative magnitudes of strain and vorticity. Dispersion is dominated by the submesoscale, not by tides. In general, headlands are more energetic and dispersive than bays. Relative diffusivity estimates are smaller and more anisotropic close to shore. Farther from shore, the relative diffusivity increases and becomes less anisotropic, approaching isotropy ~10 km from the coast. The degree of anisotropy of the relative diffusivity is qualitatively consistent with that for eddy kinetic energy. The total relative diffusivity as a function of pair separation distance R is on average proportional to R 5/4. Additional Lagrangian experiments at higher horizontal numerical resolution confirmed the robustness of these results. Structures of large vorticity are preferably elongated and aligned with the coastline nearshore, which may limit cross-shelf dispersion. The results provide useful information for the design of subgrid-scale mixing parameterizations as well as quantifying the transport and dispersal of dissolved pollutants and biological propagules.

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Leonel Romero, J. Carter Ohlmann, Enric Pallàs-Sanz, Nicholas M. Statom, Paula Pérez-Brunius, and Stéphane Maritorena

Abstract

Coincident Lagrangian observations of coastal circulation with surface drifters and dye tracer were collected to better understand small-scale physical processes controlling transport and dispersion over the inner shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. Patches of rhodamine dye and clusters of surface drifters at scales of O(100) m were deployed in a cross-shelf array within 12 km from the coast and tracked for up to 5 h with airborne and in situ observations. The airborne remote sensing system includes a hyperspectral sensor to track the evolution of dye patches and a lidar to measure directional wavenumber spectra of surface waves. Supporting in situ measurements include a CTD with a fluorometer to inform on the stratification and vertical extent of the dye and a real-time towed fluorometer for calibration of the dye concentration from hyperspectral imagery. Experiments were conducted over a wide range of conditions with surface wind speed between 3 and 10 m s−1 and varying sea states. Cross-shelf density gradients due to freshwater runoff resulted in active submesoscale flows. The airborne data allow characterization of the dominant physical processes controlling the dispersion of passive tracers such as freshwater fronts and Langmuir circulation. Langmuir circulation was identified in dye concentration maps on most sampling days except when the near surface stratification was strong. The observed relative dispersion is anisotropic with eddy diffusivities O(1) m2 s−1. Near-surface horizontal dispersion is largest along fronts and in conditions dominated by Langmuir circulation is larger in the crosswind direction. Surface convergence at fronts resulted in strong vertical velocities of up to −66 m day−1.

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