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Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Lynne D. Talley, Eric Firing, and Peter Hacker

Abstract

The full-depth current structure in the Japan/East Sea was investigated using direct velocity measurements performed with lowered and shipboard acoustic current Doppler profilers. Rotary spectral analysis was used to investigate the three-dimensional energy distribution as well as wave polarization with respect to vertical wavenumbers, yielding information about the net energy propagation direction. Highly energetic near-inertial downward-propagating waves were found in localized patches along the southern edge of the subpolar front. Between 500- and 2500-m depth, the basin average energy propagation was found to be upward, with the maximum of relative difference between upward- and downward-propagating energy lying at about 1500-m depth. This difference was most pronounced in the southeastern part of the basin.

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Matthew H. Alford, Andrey Y. Shcherbina, and Michael C. Gregg

Abstract

Shipboard ADCP and towed CTD measurements are presented of a near-inertial internal gravity wave radiating away from a zonal jet associated with the Subtropical Front in the North Pacific. Three-dimensional spatial surveys indicate persistent alternating shear layers sloping downward and equatorward from the front. As a result, depth-integrated ageostrophic shear increases sharply equatorward of the front. The layers have a vertical wavelength of about 250 m and a slope consistent with a wave of frequency 1.01f. They extend at least 100 km south of the front. Time series confirm that the shear is associated with a downward-propagating near-inertial wave with frequency within 20% of f. A slab mixed layer model forced with shipboard and NCEP reanalysis winds suggests that wind forcing was too weak to generate the wave. Likewise, trapping of the near-inertial motions at the low-vorticity edge of the front can be ruled out because of the extension of the features well south of it. Instead, the authors suggest that the wave arises from an adjustment process of the frontal flow, which has a Rossby number about 0.2–0.3.

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Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Eric A. D’Asaro, and Sven Nylund

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This paper describes the instrumentation and techniques for long-term targeted observation of the centimeter-scale velocity structure within the oceanic surface boundary layer, made possible by the recent developments in capabilities of autonomous platforms and self-contained pulse-coherent acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs). Particular attention is paid to the algorithms of ambiguity resolution (“unwrapping”) of pulse-coherent Doppler velocity measurements. The techniques are demonstrated using the new Nortek Signature1000 ADCP mounted on a Lagrangian float, a combination shown to be capable of observing ocean turbulence in a number of recent studies. Statistical uncertainty of the measured velocities in relation to the ADCP setup is also evaluated. Described techniques and analyses should be broadly applicable to other autonomous and towed applications of pulse-coherent ADCPs.

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Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Daniel L. Rudnick, and Lynne D. Talley

Abstract

The feasibility of ice-draft profiling using an upward-looking bottom-mounted acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) is demonstrated. Ice draft is determined as the difference between the instrument depth, derived from high-accuracy pressure data, and the distance to the lower ice surface, determined by the ADCP echo travel time. Algorithms for the surface range estimate from the water-track echo intensity profiles, data quality control, and correction procedures have been developed. Sources of error in using an ADCP as an ice profiler were investigated using the models of sound signal propagation and reflection. The effects of atmospheric pressure changes, sound speed variation, finite instrument beamwidth, hardware signal processing, instrument tilt, beam misalignment, and vertical sensor offset are quantified. The developed algorithms are tested using the data from the winter-long ADCP deployment on the northwestern shelf of the Okhotsk Sea.

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Alexis K. Kaminski, Eric A. D’Asaro, Andrey Y. Shcherbina, and Ramsey R. Harcourt

Abstract

A crucial region of the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) is the strongly sheared and strongly stratified transition layer (TL) separating the mixed layer from the upper pycnocline, where a diverse range of waves and instabilities are possible. Previous work suggests that these different waves and instabilities will lead to different OSBL behaviors. Therefore, understanding which physical processes occur is key for modeling the TL. Here we present observations of the TL from a Lagrangian float deployed for 73 days near Ocean Weather Station Papa (50°N, 145°W) during fall 2018. The float followed the vertical motion of the TL, continuously measuring profiles across it using an ADCP, temperature chain, and salinity sensors. The temperature chain made depth–time images of TL structures with a resolution of 6 cm and 3 s. These showed the frequent occurrence of very sharp interfaces, dominated by temperature jumps of O(1)°C over 6 cm or less. Temperature inversions were typically small (10 cm), frequent, and strongly stratified; very few large overturns were observed. The corresponding velocity profiles varied over larger length scales than the temperature profiles. These structures are consistent with scouring behavior rather than Kelvin–Helmholtz–type overturning. Their net effect, estimated via a Thorpe-scale analysis, suggests that these frequent small temperature inversions can account for the observed mixed layer deepening and entrainment flux. Corresponding estimates of dissipation, diffusivity, and heat fluxes also agree with previous TL studies, suggesting that the TL dynamics is dominated by these nearly continuous 10-cm-scale mixing structures, rather than by less frequent larger overturns.

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Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Michael C. Gregg, Matthew H. Alford, and Ramsey R. Harcourt

Abstract

A monthlong field survey in July 2007, focused on the North Pacific subtropical frontal zone (STFZ) near 30°N, 158°W, combined towed depth-cycling conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) profiling with shipboard current observations. Measurements were used to investigate the distribution and structure of thermohaline intrusions. The study revealed that local extrema of vertical salinity profiles, often used as intrusion indicators, were only a subset of a wider class of distortions in thermohaline fields due to interleaving processes. A new method to investigate interleaving based on diapycnal spiciness curvature was used to describe an expanded class of laterally coherent intrusions. STFZ intrusions were characterized by their overall statistics and by a number of case studies. Thermohaline interleaving was particularly intense within 5 km of two partially compensated fronts, where intrusions with both positive and negative salinity anomalies were widespread. The vertical and cross-frontal scales of the intrusions were on the order of 10 m and 5 km, respectively. Though highly variable, the slopes of these features were typically intermediate between those of isopycnals and isohalines. Although the influence of double-diffusive processes sometime during the evolution of intrusions could not be excluded, the broad spectrum of the observed features suggests that any role of double diffusion was secondary.

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Claudia Cenedese, Robert E. Todd, Glen G. Gawarkiewicz, W. Brechner Owens, and Andrey Y. Shcherbina

Abstract

Interactions between vortices and a shelfbreak current are investigated, with particular attention to the exchange of waters between the continental shelf and slope. The nonlinear, three-dimensional interaction between an anticyclonic vortex and the shelfbreak current is studied in the laboratory while varying the ratio ε of the maximum azimuthal velocity in the vortex to the maximum alongshelf velocity in the shelfbreak current. Strong interactions between the shelfbreak current and the vortex are observed when ε > 1; weak interactions are found when ε < 1. When the anticyclonic vortex comes in contact with the shelfbreak front during a strong interaction, a streamer of shelf water is drawn offshore and wraps anticyclonically around the vortex. Measurements of the offshore transport and identification of the particle trajectories in the shelfbreak current drawn offshore from the vortex allow quantification of the fraction of the shelfbreak current that is deflected onto the slope; this fraction increases for increasing values of ε. Experimental results in the laboratory are strikingly similar to results obtained from observations in the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB); after proper scaling, measurements of offshore transport and offshore displacement of shelf water for vortices in the MAB that span a range of values of ε agree well with laboratory predictions.

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Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Miles A. Sundermeyer, Eric Kunze, Eric D’Asaro, Gualtiero Badin, Daniel Birch, Anne-Marie E. G. Brunner-Suzuki, Jörn Callies, Brandy T. Kuebel Cervantes, Mariona Claret, Brian Concannon, Jeffrey Early, Raffaele Ferrari, Louis Goodman, Ramsey R. Harcourt, Jody M. Klymak, Craig M. Lee, M.-Pascale Lelong, Murray D. Levine, Ren-Chieh Lien, Amala Mahadevan, James C. McWilliams, M. Jeroen Molemaker, Sonaljit Mukherjee, Jonathan D. Nash, Tamay Özgökmen, Stephen D. Pierce, Sanjiv Ramachandran, Roger M. Samelson, Thomas B. Sanford, R. Kipp Shearman, Eric D. Skyllingstad, K. Shafer Smith, Amit Tandon, John R. Taylor, Eugene A. Terray, Leif N. Thomas, and James R. Ledwell

Abstract

Lateral stirring is a basic oceanographic phenomenon affecting the distribution of physical, chemical, and biological fields. Eddy stirring at scales on the order of 100 km (the mesoscale) is fairly well understood and explicitly represented in modern eddy-resolving numerical models of global ocean circulation. The same cannot be said for smaller-scale stirring processes. Here, the authors describe a major oceanographic field experiment aimed at observing and understanding the processes responsible for stirring at scales of 0.1–10 km. Stirring processes of varying intensity were studied in the Sargasso Sea eddy field approximately 250 km southeast of Cape Hatteras. Lateral variability of water-mass properties, the distribution of microscale turbulence, and the evolution of several patches of inert dye were studied with an array of shipboard, autonomous, and airborne instruments. Observations were made at two sites, characterized by weak and moderate background mesoscale straining, to contrast different regimes of lateral stirring. Analyses to date suggest that, in both cases, the lateral dispersion of natural and deliberately released tracers was O(1) m2 s–1 as found elsewhere, which is faster than might be expected from traditional shear dispersion by persistent mesoscale flow and linear internal waves. These findings point to the possible importance of kilometer-scale stirring by submesoscale eddies and nonlinear internal-wave processes or the need to modify the traditional shear-dispersion paradigm to include higher-order effects. A unique aspect of the Scalable Lateral Mixing and Coherent Turbulence (LatMix) field experiment is the combination of direct measurements of dye dispersion with the concurrent multiscale hydrographic and turbulence observations, enabling evaluation of the underlying mechanisms responsible for the observed dispersion at a new level.

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