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Alban Lazar, Gurvan Madec, and Pascale Delecluse

Abstract

Numerous numerical simulations of basin-scale ocean circulation display a vast interior downwelling and a companion intense western boundary layer upwelling at midlatitude below the thermocline. These features, related to the so-called Veronis effect, are poorly rationalized and depart strongly from the classical vision of the deep circulation where upwelling is considered to occur in the interior. Furthermore, they significantly alter results of ocean general circulation models (OGCMs) using horizontal Laplacian diffusion. Recently, some studies showed that the parameterization for mesoscale eddy effects formulated by Gent and McWilliams allows integral quantities like the streamfunction and meridional heat transport to be free of these undesired effects. In this paper, an idealized OGCM is used to validate an analytical rationalization of the processes at work and help understand the physics.

The results show that the features associated with the Veronis effect can be related quantitatively to three different width scales that characterize the baroclinic structure of the deep western boundary current. In addition, since one of these scales may be smaller than the Munk barotropic layer, usually considered to determine the minimum resolution and horizontal viscosity for numerical models, the authors recommend that it be taken into account. Regarding the introduction of the new parameterization, diagnostics in terms of heat balances underline some interesting similarities between local heat fluxes by eddy-induced velocities and horizontal diffusion at low and midlatitudes when a common large diffusivity (here 2000 m2 s−1) is used. The near-quasigeostrophic character of the flow explains these results. As a consequence, the response of the Eulerian-mean circulation is locally similar for runs using either of the two parameterizations. However, it is shown that the advective nature of the eddy-induced heat fluxes results in a very different effective circulation, which is the one felt by tracers.

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Nicolas Kolodziejczyk, Gilles Reverdin, and Alban Lazar

Abstract

The Argo dataset is used to study the winter upper-ocean conditions in the northeastern subtropical (NEA) Atlantic during 2006–12. During late winter 2010, the mixed layer depth is abnormally shallow and a negative anomaly of density-compensated salinity, the so-called spiciness, is generated in the permanent pycnocline. This is primarily explained by unusual weak air–sea buoyancy flux during the late winter 2010, in contrast with the five other studied winters. Particularly deep mixed layers and strong spiciness anomalies are observed during late winter 2012. The 2010 winter conditions appear to be related to historically low North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and high tropical North Atlantic index (TNA). Interannual variability of the eastern subtropical mixed layer is further investigated using a simple 1D bulk model of mean temperature and salinity linear profiles, based on turbulent kinetic energy conservation in the upper-ocean layer, and forced only with seasonal air–sea buoyancy forcing corresponding to fall–winter 2006–12. It suggests that year-to-year variability of the winter convective mixing driven by atmospheric buoyancy flux is able to generate interannual variability of both late winter mixed layer depth and spiciness in a strongly compensated layer at the base of the mixed layer and in the permanent pycnocline.

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Audine Laurian, Alban Lazar, and Gilles Reverdin

Abstract

Oceanic teleconnections between the low and midlatitudes are a key mechanism to understanding the climate variability. Spiciness anomalies (density-compensated anomalies) have been shown to transport temperature and salinity signals when propagating along current streamlines in the subtropical gyres of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The generation mechanism of spiciness anomalies in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre is investigated using an analytical model based on the late-winter subduction of salinity and temperature anomalies along isopycnal surfaces. The keystone of this approach is the change of the coordinates frame from isobaric to isopycnic surfaces, suited for subduction problems. The isopycnal nature of spiciness anomalies and the use of a linear density equation allows for the analytical model to depend only upon surface temperature and salinity anomalies, the mean thermocline currents, and the surface density ratio. This model clarifies and above all quantifies the mechanism by which surface temperature and salinity anomalies are modulated by density ratios to produce fully different isopycnal temperature and salinity anomalies.

A global run from the ocean GCM (OGCM) Océan Parallélisé (OPA) over the period 1948–2002 provides the reference data in which the North Atlantic subtropical thermocline spiciness variability is analyzed. Two EOF modes are sufficient to explain half of the low-frequency variability in the OGCM: one is maximum over the northeastern subtropics, and the other is in the central basin. The analytical model reproduces well the spatial pattern, amplitude, and sign of these two main modes. It confirms that the two centers of action of the anomalies are conditioned by the surface density ratio, the first corresponding to null salinity gradients and the second to near-density-compensated temperature gradients. Considering that the analytical model has good skills at reproducing the decadal variability of the OGCM spiciness anomalies in the permanent thermocline, it is believed that this is an interesting tool to understand and forecast the ventilation of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre at this time scale.

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Tomoko Inui, Alban Lazar, Paola Malanotte-Rizzoli, and Antonio Busalacchi

Abstract

A reduced-gravity, primitive equation, upper-ocean GCM is used to study subduction pathways in the Atlantic subtropical and tropical gyres. In order to compare the different responses in the pathways to strong and weak wind stress forcings, Hellerman and Rosenstein (HR) and da Silva (DSV) climatological annual-mean and monthly wind stress forcings are used to force the model. It is shown that subtropical–tropical communication is dependent on both the strength and structure of the wind forcing. A comparison between the two experiments shows two results for the North Atlantic: 1) the full communication window between the subtropical and tropical gyres is similar in width despite the difference in the intensity of the winds and 2) the interior exchange window width is substantially larger in the weak forcing experiment (DSV) than the strong forcing experiment (HR), accompanied by a larger transport as well. The South Atlantic exhibits a similar communication between the subtropics and Tropics in both cases. The annual-mean of the seasonally varying forcing also supports these results. A two-layer ventilated thermocline model is developed with a zonally varying, even though idealized, wind stress in the North Atlantic, which includes the upward Ekman pumping region absent from the classical ventilated thermocline model. The model shows that the communication window for subduction pathways is a function of the zonal gradient of the Ekman pumping velocity, not the Ekman pumping itself, at outcrop lines and at the boundary between the subtropical and tropical gyres. This solution is validated using three additional GCM experiments. It is shown that the communication windows are primarily explained by the ventilated thermocline model without considering the buoyancy effects. From the GCM experiments, the interior exchange window, which is a part of the communication window and cannot be explained by the ventilated thermocline model, is widened by two factors: 1) eliminating part of the positive Ekman pumping region in the eastern North Atlantic and 2) weakening the Ekman pumping over the whole region. The implications of these results suggest that changes in the wind forcing on the order of the difference in the wind products used here can have a significant effect on the attributes of the communication window and, hence, the thermocline structure at lower latitudes.

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Rémi Tailleux, Alban Lazar, and C. J. C. Reason

Abstract

Subducted temperature anomalies have been invoked as a possible way for midlatitudes to alter the climate variability of equatorial regions through the so-called thermocline bridge, both in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. To have a significant impact on the equatorial heat balance, however, temperature anomalies must reach the equatorial regions sufficiently undamped. In the oceans, the amplitude of propagating temperature (and salinity) anomalies can be altered both by diabatic (nonconservative) and adiabatic (conservative) effects. The importance of adiabatic alterations depends on whether the anomalies are controlled by wave dynamics or by passive advection associated with density compensation. Waves being relatively well understood, this paper seeks to understand the amplitude variations of density-compensated temperature and salinity anomalies caused by adiabatic effects, for which no general methodology is available. The main assumption is that these can be computed independent of amplitude variations caused by diabatic effects. Because density compensation requires the equality T′/S′ = βS/α to hold along mean trajectories, the ratio T′/S′ may potentially undergo large amplitude variations if the ratio βS/α does, where α and βS are the thermal expansion and haline contraction coefficients, respectively. In the oceans, the ratio βS/α may decrease by an order-1 factor between the extratropical and tropical latitudes, but such large variations are in general associated with diapycnal rather than isopycnal motion and hence are likely to be superimposed in practice with diabatically induced variations. To understand the individual variations of T′ and S′ along the mean streamlines, two distinct theories are constructed that respectively use density/salinity and density/spiciness as prognostic variables. If the coupling between the prognostic variables is neglected, as is usually done, both theories predict at leading order that temperature (salinity) anomalies should be systematically and significantly attenuated (conserved or amplified), on average, when propagating from extratropical to tropical latitudes. Along particular trajectories following isopycnals, however, both attenuation and amplification appear to be locally possible. Assuming that the density/spiciness formulation is the most accurate, which is supported by a theoretical assessment of higher-order effects, the present results provide an amplification mechanism for subducted salinity anomalies propagating equatorward, by which the latter could potentially affect decadal equatorial climate variability through their slow modulation of the equatorial mixed layer, perhaps more easily than their attenuated temperature counterparts. This could be by affecting, for instance, barrier layers by which salinity is known to strongly affect local heat fluxes and heat content.

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Abdou L. Dieng, Laurence Eymard, Saidou M. Sall, Alban Lazar, and Marion Leduc-Leballeur

Abstract

A large number of Atlantic tropical depressions are generated in the eastern basin in relation to the African easterly wave (AEW) and embedded mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) coming from the African continent. In this paper, the structures of strengthening and dissipating MCSs evolving near the West African coast are analyzed, including the role of the ocean surface conditions in their evolution.

Satellite infrared brightness temperature and meteorological radar data over seven summer seasons between 1993 and 2006 are used to subjectively select 20 cases of strengthening and dissipating MCSs in the vicinity of the Senegal coast. With these observed MCSs, a lagged composite analysis is then performed using Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR).

It is shown that the strengthening MCS is generally preceded by prior passage of an AEW near the West African coast. This previous wave trough is associated with a convective cyclonic circulation in the low and middle troposphere, which enhances the southwesterly flow and then provides humidity to the strengthening MCS, located in the vicinity of the subsequent AEW trough. This is favored by the contraction of the wavelength associated with the two troughs. The sea surface contributes to the MCS enhancement through surface evaporation flux. But this contribution is found to be less important than advection of humidity from the previous wave trough. These conditions are almost not found in the dissipating MCS cases, which dissipate in a dry environment dominated by a subsident and anticyclonic circulation, with generally no interaction with a previous wave trough.

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Abdou L. Dieng, Saidou M. Sall, Laurence Eymard, Marion Leduc-Leballeur, and Alban Lazar

Abstract

In this study, the relationship between trains of African easterly waves (AEWs) and downstream tropical cyclogenesis is studied. Based on 19 summer seasons (July–September from 1990 to 2008) of ERA-Interim reanalysis fields and brightness temperature from the Cloud User Archive, the signature of AEW troughs and embedded convection are tracked from the West African coast to the central Atlantic. The tracked systems are separated into four groups: (i) systems originating from the north zone of the midtropospheric African easterly jet (AEJ), (ii) those coming from the south part of AEJ, (iii) systems that are associated with a downstream trough located around 2000 km westward (termed DUO systems), and (iv) those that are not associated with such a close downstream trough (termed SOLO systems).

By monitoring the embedded 700-hPa-filtered relative vorticity and 850-hPa wind convergence anomaly associated with these families along their trajectories, it is shown that the DUO generally have stronger dynamical structure and statistically have a longer lifetime than the SOLO ones. It is suggested that the differences between them may be due to the presence of the previous intense downstream trough in DUO cases, enhancing the low-level convergence behind them. Moreover, a study of the relationship between system trajectories and tropical depressions occurring between the West African coast and 40°W showed that 90% of tropical depressions are identifiable from the West African coast in tracked systems, mostly in the DUO cases originating from the south zone of the AEJ.

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Marta Martín-Rey, Irene Polo, Belén Rodríguez-Fonseca, Teresa Losada, and Alban Lazar

Abstract

The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is the leading mode of Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) variability at multidecadal time scales. Previous studies have shown that the AMO could modulate El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variance. However, the role played by the AMO in the tropical Atlantic variability (TAV) is still uncertain. Here, it is demonstrated that during negative AMO phases, associated with a shallower thermocline, the eastern equatorial Atlantic SST variability is enhanced by more than 150% in boreal summer. Consequently, the interannual TAV modes are modified. During negative AMO, the Atlantic Niño displays larger amplitude and a westward extension and it is preceded by a simultaneous weakening of both subtropical highs in winter and spring. In contrast, a meridional seesaw SLP pattern evolving into a zonal gradient leads the Atlantic Niño during positive AMO. The north tropical Atlantic (NTA) mode is related to a Scandinavian blocking pattern during winter and spring in negative AMO, while under positive AMO it is part of the SST tripole associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation. Interestingly, the emergence of an overlooked variability mode, here called the horseshoe (HS) pattern on account of its shape, is favored during negative AMO. This anomalous warm (cool) HS surrounding an eastern equatorial cooling (warming) is remotely forced by an ENSO phenomenon. During negative AMO, the tropical–extratropical teleconnections are enhanced and the Walker circulation is altered. This, together with the increased equatorial SST variability, could promote the ENSO impacts on TAV. The results herein give a step forward in the better understanding of TAV, which is essential to improving its modeling, impacts, and predictability.

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Xavier Capet, Philippe Estrade, Eric Machu, Siny Ndoye, Jacques Grelet, Alban Lazar, Louis Marié, Denis Dausse, and Patrice Brehmer

Abstract

Upwelling off southern Senegal and Gambia takes place over a wide shelf with a large area where depths are shallower than 20 m. This results in typical upwelling patterns that are distinct (e.g., more persistent in time and aligned alongshore) from those of other better known systems, including Oregon and Peru where inner shelves are comparatively narrow. Synoptic to superinertial variability of this upwelling center is captured through a 4-week intensive field campaign, representing the most comprehensive measurements of this region to date. The influence of mesoscale activity extends across the shelf break and far over the shelf where it impacts the midshelf upwelling (e.g., strength of the upwelling front and circulation), possibly in concert with wind fluctuations. Internal tides and solitary waves of large amplitude are ubiquitous over the shelf. The observations suggest that these and possibly other sources of mixing play a major role in the overall system dynamics through their impact upon the general shelf thermohaline structure, in particular in the vicinity of the upwelling zone. Systematic alongshore variability in thermohaline properties highlights important limitations of the 2D idealization framework that is frequently used in coastal upwelling studies.

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