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Andrew L. Stewart and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Zonal momentum input into the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) by westerly winds is ultimately removed via topographic form stress induced by large bathymetric features that obstruct the path of the current. These bathymetric features also support the export of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) across the ACC via deep, geostrophically balanced, northward flows. These deep geostrophic currents modify the topographic form stress, implying that changes in AABW export will alter the ocean bottom pressure and require a rearrangement of the ACC in order to preserve its zonal momentum balance. A conceptual model of the ACC momentum balance is used to derive a relationship between the volume export of AABW and the shape of the sea surface across the ACC’s standing meanders. This prediction is tested using an idealized eddy-resolving ACC/Antarctic shelf channel model that includes both the upper and lower cells of the Southern Ocean meridional overturning circulation, using two different topographic configurations to obstruct the flow of the ACC. Eliminating AABW production leads to a shallowing of the sea surface elevation within the standing meander. To quantify this response, the authors introduce the “surface-induced topographic form stress,” the topographic form stress that would result from the shape of the sea surface if the ocean were barotropic. Eliminating AABW production also reduces the magnitude of the eddy kinetic energy generated downstream of the meander and the surface speed of the ACC within the meander. These findings raise the possibility that ongoing changes in AABW export may be detectable via satellite altimetry.

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Callum J. Shakespeare and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Recent numerical modeling studies have suggested significant spontaneous internal wave generation near the ocean surface and energy transfers to and from these waves in the ocean interior. Spontaneous generation is the emission of waves by unbalanced, large Rossby number flows in the absence of direct forcing. Here, the authors’ previous work is extended to investigate where and how these waves exchange energy with the nonwave (mean) flow. A novel double-filtering technique is adopted to separate first the wave and nonwave fields, then the individual upward- and downward-propagating wave fields, and thereby identify the pathways of energy transfer. These energy transfers are dominated by the interaction of the waves with the vertical shear in the mean flow. Spontaneously generated waves are found to be oriented such that the downward-propagating wave is amplified by the mean shear. The internal waves propagate through the entire model depth while dissipating energy and reflect back upward. The now-upward-propagating waves have the opposite sign interaction with the mean shear and decay, losing most of their energy to the nonwave flow in the upper 500 m. Overall, in the simulations described here, approximately 30% of the wave energy is dissipated, and 70% is returned to the mean flow. The apparent preferential orientation of spontaneous generation suggests a potentially unique role for these waves in the ocean energy budget in uniformly drawing net energy from mean flow in the upper-ocean interior and transporting it to depth.

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Callum J. Shakespeare and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Recent theories, models, and observations have suggested the presence of significant spontaneous internal wave generation at density fronts near the ocean surface. Spontaneous generation is the emission of waves by unbalanced, large Rossby number flows in the absence of direct forcing. Here, spontaneous generation is investigated in a zonally reentrant channel model using parameter values typical of the Southern Ocean. The model is carefully equilibrated to obtain a steady-state wave field for which a closed energy budget is formulated. There are two main results: First, waves are spontaneously generated at sharp fronts in the top 50 m of the model. The magnitude of the energy flux to the wave field at these fronts is comparable to that from other mechanisms of wave generation. Second, the surface-generated wave field is amplified in the model interior through interaction with horizontal density gradients within the main zonal current. The magnitude of the mean-to-wave conversion in the model interior is comparable to recent observational estimates and is the dominant source of wave energy in the model, exceeding the initial spontaneous generation. This second result suggests that internal amplification of the wave field may contribute to the ocean’s internal wave energy budget at a rate commensurate with known generation mechanisms.

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Taimoor Sohail, Bishakhdatta Gayen, and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Open-ocean convection is a common phenomenon that regulates mixed layer depth and ocean ventilation in the high-latitude oceans. However, many climate model simulations overestimate mixed layer depth during open-ocean convection, resulting in excessive formation of dense water in some regions. The physical processes controlling transient mixed layer depth during open-ocean convection are examined using two different numerical models: a high-resolution, turbulence-resolving nonhydrostatic model and a large-scale hydrostatic ocean model. An isolated destabilizing buoyancy flux is imposed at the surface of both models and a quasi-equilibrium flow is allowed to develop. Mixed layer depth in the turbulence-resolving and large-scale models closely aligns with existing scaling theories. However, the large-scale model has an anomalously deep mixed layer prior to quasi-equilibrium. This transient mixed layer depth bias is a consequence of the lack of resolved turbulent convection in the model, which delays the onset of baroclinic instability. These findings suggest that in order to reduce mixed layer biases in ocean simulations, parameterizations of the connection between baroclinic instability and convection need to be addressed.

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Callum J. Shakespeare and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

An analytical model of the full-depth ocean stratification and meridional overturning circulation for an idealized Atlantic basin with a circumpolar channel is presented. The model explicitly describes the ocean response to both Southern Ocean winds and the global pattern and strength of prescribed surface buoyancy fluxes. The construction of three layers, defined by the two isopycnals of overturning extrema, allows the description of circulation and stratification in both the upper and abyssal ocean. The system is fully solved in the adiabatic limit to yield scales for the surface layer thickness, buoyancies of each layer, and overturning magnitudes. The analytical model also allows scaling of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport. The veracity of the three-layer framework and derived scales is confirmed by applying the analytical model to an idealized geometry, eddy-permitting ocean general circulation model.

Consistent with previous results, the abyssal overturning is found to scale inversely with wind stress, whereas the North Atlantic overturning and surface-layer thickness scale linearly with wind stress. In terms of the prescribed surface buoyancy fluxes, increased negative fluxes (buoyancy removal) in the North Atlantic increase the North Atlantic overturning and surface-layer thickness, whereas increased positive fluxes in the middle and low latitudes lead to a decrease in both parameters. Increased negative surface buoyancy fluxes to the south of Drake Passage increase the abyssal overturning and reduce the abyssal buoyancy. The ACC transport scales to first order with the sum of the Ekman transport and the abyssal overturning and thus increases with both wind stress and southern surface buoyancy flux magnitude.

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Christopher C. Chapman and Andrew McC. Hogg

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The authors study intrinsic variability in the position of jets in a β-plane channel ocean with simple topography using a quasigeostrophic numerical model. This study links the variability in jet position with abyssal anticyclones that form as a result of interaction of mesoscale eddies and subsurface topography, reminiscent of such flows as the Zapiola anticyclone. A simple dynamical framework explaining this behavior is developed. In this framework, this study shows that the topographic anticyclones form closed regions of homogenized yet time-varying potential vorticity. Neighboring topographic anticyclones are coupled by eddy fluxes. Interaction of a baroclinic jet with these two (or more) anticyclones can drive variability in local jet strength. Predictions of the dynamical framework are then compared with the results of the numerical model, and it is demonstrated that this model has merit in explaining the observed model variability. This study argues that this simple mode of variability has relevance for the ocean.

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Navid C. Constantinou and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Atmosphere and ocean are coupled via air–sea interactions. The atmospheric conditions fuel the ocean circulation and its variability, but the extent to which ocean processes can affect the atmosphere at decadal time scales remains unclear. In particular, such low-frequency variability is difficult to extract from the short observational record, meaning that climate models are the primary tools deployed to resolve this question. Here, we assess how the ocean’s intrinsic variability leads to patterns of upper-ocean heat content that vary at decadal time scales. These patterns have the potential to feed back on the atmosphere and thereby affect climate modes of variability, such as El Niño or the interdecadal Pacific oscillation. We use the output from a global ocean–sea ice circulation model at three different horizontal resolutions, each driven by the same atmospheric reanalysis. To disentangle the variability of the ocean’s direct response to atmospheric forcing from the variability due to intrinsic ocean dynamics, we compare model runs driven with interannually varying forcing (1958–2018) and model runs driven with repeat-year forcing. Models with coarse resolution that rely on eddy parameterizations show (i) significantly reduced variance of the upper-ocean heat content at decadal time scales and (ii) differences in the spatial patterns of low-frequency variability compared with higher-resolution models. Climate projections are typically done with general circulation models with coarse-resolution ocean components. Therefore, these biases affect our ability to predict decadal climate modes of variability and, in turn, hinder climate projections. Our results suggest that for improving climate projections, the community should move toward coupled climate models with higher oceanic resolution.

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Callum J. Shakespeare and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

The action of the barotropic tide over seafloor topography is the major source of internal waves at the bottom of the ocean. This internal tide has long been recognized to play an important role in ocean mixing. Here it is shown that the internal tide is also associated with a net (domain integrated) momentum flux. The net flux occurs as a result of the Doppler shifting of the internal tide at the point of generation by near-bottom mean flows. Linear theory is presented that predicts the amplitude of the wave momentum flux. The net flux scales with the bottom flow speed and the topographic wavenumber to the fourth power and is directed opposite to the bottom flow. For realistic topography, the predicted peak momentum flux occurs at scales of order 10 km and smaller, with magnitudes of order 10−3–10−2 N m−2. The theory is verified by comparison with a suite of idealized internal wave-resolving simulations. The simulations show that, for the topography considered, the wave momentum flux radiates away from the bottom and enhances mean and eddying flow when the tidal waves dissipate in the upper ocean. Our results suggest that internal tides may play an important role in forcing the upper ocean.

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Adele K. Morrison and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

The eddy field in the Southern Ocean offsets the impact of strengthening winds on the meridional overturning circulation and Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport. There is widespread belief that the sensitivities of the overturning and ACC transport are dynamically linked, with limitation of the ACC transport response implying limitation of the overturning response. Here, an idealized numerical model is employed to investigate the response of the large-scale circulation in the Southern Ocean to wind stress perturbations at eddy-permitting to eddy-resolving scales. Significant differences are observed between the sensitivities and the resolution dependence of the overturning and ACC transport, indicating that they are controlled by distinct dynamical mechanisms. The modeled overturning is significantly more sensitive to change than the ACC transport, with the possible implication that the Southern Ocean overturning may increase in response to future wind stress changes without measurable changes in the ACC transport. It is hypothesized that the dynamical distinction between the zonal and meridional transport sensitivities is derived from the depth dependence of the extent of cancellation between the Ekman and eddy-induced transports.

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Stephanie M. Downes and Andrew McC. Hogg

Abstract

Thirteen state-of-the-art climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are used to evaluate the response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) transport and Southern Ocean meridional overturning circulation to surface wind stress and buoyancy changes. Understanding how these flows—fundamental players in the global distribution of heat, gases, and nutrients—respond to climate change is currently a widely debated issue among oceanographers. Here, the authors analyze the circulation responses of these coarse-resolution coupled models to surface fluxes. Under a future CMIP5 climate pathway where the equivalent atmospheric CO2 reaches 1370 ppm by 2100, the models robustly project reduced Southern Ocean density in the upper 2000 m accompanied by strengthened stratification. Despite an overall increase in overlying wind stress (~20%), the projected ACC transports lie within ±15% of their historical state, and no significant relationship with changes in the magnitude or position of the wind stress is identified. The models indicate that a weakening of ACC transport at the end of the twenty-first century is correlated with a strong increase in the surface heat and freshwater fluxes in the ACC region. In contrast, the surface heat gain across the ACC region and the wind-driven surface transports are significantly correlated with an increased upper and decreased lower Eulerian-mean meridional overturning circulation. The change in the eddy-induced overturning in both the depth and density spaces is quantified, and it is found that the CMIP5 models project partial eddy compensation of the upper and lower overturning cells.

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