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Claus W. Böning

Abstract

The effects of a rough topography are investigated in a primitive equation, eddy-resolving circulation model of an idealized ocean basin. The topography is chosen as a random field with an isotropic spectrum, specified according to observed abyssal hill topographies.

The interactions of the deep current fluctuations with the synoptic-scale irregularities of the ocean floor enhance the baroclinicity of the eddy field; whereas a strong tendency toward barotropization is revealed in a flat-bottom solution, the topographic influence leads to a substantial decrease of eddy kinetic energy below the thermocline and a much more depth-dependent structure, especially in areas of weaker flow intensity. Energy budgets indicate that the adjustment after the introduction of the bottom roughness is dominated by a strong reduction of energy in the external mode. While eddy energy in the thermocline is not significantly altered in the new equilibrium state, energy in the deeper layers is scrambled into smaller, topographic scales and effectively removed by lateral friction.

The velocity fluctuations in the thermocline exhibit a tendency toward phase-coherent vortices even in the interior, eastern portion of the gyre. Whereas eddies lose their identity after a few months in the flat bottom case, the presence of topography acts as a stabilizing factor; energetic, preferentially anticyclonic eddies show lifetimes of more than 1.5 years. The scale and propagation characteristics suggest a dynamical identification of these ringlike structures with the vortices of the “intermediate–geostrophic” (IG) regime.

Whereas the low-frequency variability in the flat bottom case is characterized by zonally oriented bands in the external mode, this structure disappears with the introduction of topography. A Lagrangian analysis shows that particle dispersion becomes almost isotropic below the thermocline; in the upper layers a preference of zonal diffusivity remains.

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Claus W. Böning
and
Michael D. Cox

Abstract

We examine the diffusive behavior of the flow field in an eddy-resolving, primitive equation circulation model. Analysis of fluid particle trajectories illustrates the transport mechanisms, which are leading to uniform tracer and potential vorticity distributions in the interior of the subtropical thermocline. In contrast to the assumption of weak mixing in recent analytical theories, the numerical model indicates the alternative of tracer and potential vorticity homogenization on isopycnal surfaces taking place in a nonideal fluid with strong, along-isopycnal eddy mixing.

The eastern, ventilated portion of the gyre appears to be sufficiently homogeneous to allow the concept of an eddy diffusivity to apply. A break in a random walk behavior of particle statistics occurs after about 100 days when along-flow dispersion sharply increases, indicative of mean shear effects. During the first months of particle spreading, eddy dispersal and mean advection are of similar magnitude. Eddy kinetic energy is of O(60–80 cm2 s−2) in the model thermocline, comparable to the pool of weak eddy intensity found in the eastern parts of the subtropical oceans. Eddy diffusivity in the model thermocline (K xx = 8 × 107, K yy = 3 × 107 cm2 s−1) seems to be higher by a factor of about 3 than oceanic values estimated for these area. Below the thermocline, model diffusivity decreases substantially and becomes much more anisotropic, with particle dispersal preferentially in the zonal direction. The strong nonisotropic behavior, prominent also in all other areas of water eddy intensity, appears as the major discrepancy when compared with the observed behavior of SOFAR floats and surface drifters in the ocean.

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Detlef Stammer
and
Claus W. Böning

Abstract

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Detlef Stammer
and
Claus W. Böning

Abstract

Characteristic of the mesoscale variability in the Atlantic Ocean are investigated by analyzing the Geosat altimeter signal between 60°S and 60°N. The rms sea-surface variability for various frequency bands is studied, including the high-frequency eddy-containing band with periods <150 days. Wavenumber spectra and spatial eddy characteristics are analyzed over 10° by 10° boxes covering both hemispheres of the Atlantic Ocean. A comparison, with solutions of a high-resolution numerical experiment, developed as the Community Modeling Effort of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment, aids interpretation of the Geosat results in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic and provides a test of the model fluctuating eddy field.

Results from Geosat altimetry show a wavenumber dependence close to k 1 −5 (k 1 being the alongtrack wave-number) over almost the entire Atlantic Ocean except for areas in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic where the rms variability in the eddy-containing band is less than 5 cm, that is, not significantly different from the altimeter noise level. Characteristic eddy length scales inferred from Geosat data are linearly related with the deformation radius of the first baroclinic mode over the whole Atlantic Ocean, except for the equatorial regime (10°S to 10°N).

The data-model comparison indicates that the high-resolution model with horizontal grid size of ⅓° and ⅖° in latitude and longitude is quite capable of simulating observed eddy characteristics in the tropics and subtropics. In mid- and high latitudes, however, the model fails to simulate the pronounced poleward decrease in eddy scales. This leads to systematic discrepancies between the model and Geosat observation, with model scales being up to 50% larger than deduced from altimetry.

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Claus W. Böning
and
Peter Herrmann

Abstract

The annual cycle of meridional heat transport in the North and equatorial Atlantic Ocean is studied by means of the high-resolution numerical model that had been developed in recent years as a Community Modeling Effort for the World Ocean Circulation Experiment. Similar to previous model studies, there is a winter maximum in northward heat transport in the equatorial Atlantic and a summer maximum in midlatitudes. The seasonal variation in heat transport in the equatorial Atlantic, with a maximum near 8°N, is associated with the out-of-phase changes in heat content to the north and south of that latitude in connection with the seasonal reversal of the North Equatorial Countercurrent. The amplitude of the heat transport variation at 8°N depends on model resolution: forcing with the monthly mean wind stresses of Hellerman–Rosenstein (HR) gives an annual range of 2.1 PW in the case of a 1/3° meridional grid, and 1.7 PW in the case of a 1° grid, compared to 1.4 PW in a previous 2° model. Forcing with the wind stresses of Isemer–Hasse (IH) gives 2.5 PW in the 1/3° and 2.2 PW in the 1° model case. The annual range of heat transport in the subtropical North Atlantic is much less dependent on resolution but sensitive to the wind stress: it increases from 0.5 PW in the case of HR forcing to almost 0.8 PW with IH forcing.

The annual cycle of heat transport can be understood in terms of wind-driven variations in the meridional overturning; variations in horizontal gyre transport have only little effect both in the equatorial and in the subtropical Atlantic. In all model solutions the seasonal variations in the near-surface meridional Ekman transport are associated with deep seasonal overturning cells. The weak shear of the deep response suggests that the large variations in heat transport on seasonal and shorter time scales should be of little consequence for observational estimates of mean oceanic heat transports relying on one-time hydrographic surveys.

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Claus W. Böning
and
Reinhard G. Budich

Abstract

A primitive equation model of an idealized ocean basin, driven by simple, study wind and buoyancy forcing at the surface, is used to study the dynamics of mesoscale eddies. Model statistics of a six-year integration using a fine grid (1/6° × 0.2°), with reduced coefficients of horizontal friction, are compared to those using a coarser grid (1/3° × 0.4°), but otherwise identical configuration. Eddy generation in both model cases is primarily due to the release of mean potential energy by baroclinic instability. Horizontal Reynolds stresses become significant near the midlatitude jet of the fine-grid case, with a tendency for preferred energy transfers from the eddies to the mean flow. Using the finer resolution, eddy kinetic energy nearly doubles at the surface of the subtropical gyre, and increases by factors of 3–4 over the jet region and in higher latitudes. The spatial characteristics of the mesoscale fluctuations are examined by calculating zonal wavenumber spectra and velocity autocorrelation functions. With the higher resolution, the dominant eddy scale remains approximately the same in the subtropical gyre but decreases by a factor of 2 in the subpolar areas. The wavenumber spectra indicate a strong influence of the model friction in the coarse-grid case, especially in higher latitudes. Using the coarse grid, there is almost no separation between the energetic eddy scale and the scale where friction begins to dominate, leading to steep spectra beyond the cutoff wavenumber. Using the finer resolution an inertial subrange with a k −3 power law begins to emerge in all model regions outside the equatorial belt.

Despite the large increase of eddy intensity in the fine-grid model, effects on the mean northward transport of heat are negligible. Strong eddy fluxes of heat across the midlatitude jet are almost exactly compensated by changes of the heat transport due to the mean flow.

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Lavinia Patara
,
Claus W. Böning
, and
Toste Tanhua

Abstract

Enhanced Southern Ocean ventilation in recent decades has been suggested to be a relevant modulator of the observed changes in ocean heat and carbon uptake. This study focuses on the Southern Ocean midlatitude ventilation changes from the 1960s to the 2010s. A global 1/4° configuration of the NEMO–Louvain-la-Neuve sea ice model, version 2 (LIM2), including the inert tracer CFC-12 (a proxy of ocean ventilation) is forced with the CORE, phase II (CORE-II), and JRA-55 driving ocean (JRA55-do) atmospheric reanalyses. Sensitivity experiments, where the variability of wind stress and/or the buoyancy forcing is suppressed on interannual time scales, are used to unravel the mechanisms driving ventilation changes. Ventilation changes are estimated by comparing CFC-12 interior inventories among the different experiments. All simulations suggest a multidecadal fluctuation of Southern Ocean ventilation, with a decrease until the 1980s–90s and a subsequent increase. This evolution is related to the atmospheric forcing and is caused by the (often counteracting) effects of wind stress and buoyancy forcing. Until the 1980s, increased buoyancy gains caused the ventilation decrease, whereas the subsequent ventilation increase was driven by strengthened wind stress causing deeper mixed layers and a stronger meridional overturning circulation. Wind stress emerges as the main driver of ventilation changes, even though buoyancy forcing modulates its trend and decadal variability. The three Southern Ocean basins take up CFC-12 in distinct density intervals but overall respond similarly to the atmospheric forcing. This study suggests that Southern Ocean ventilation is expected to increase as long as the effect of increasing Southern Hemisphere wind stress overwhelms that of increased stratification.

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Ralf Döscher
,
Claus W. Böning
, and
Peter Herrmann

Abstract

To avoid an explicit simulation of the overflows across the Greenland-Scotland ridge, many models of the large-scale ocean circulation seek to include the net effect of the inflowing dense water masses by restoring temperature and salinity near the ridge to observed conditions. In this paper the authors examine the effect of different datasets for the northern restoring condition in two versions, eddy resolving and non-eddy resolving, of the model of the North and equatorial Atlantic that has been developed in recent years as a Community Modeling Effort for WOCE. It is shown that the use of smoothed climatological fields of temperature and salinity south of the Denmark Strait leads to strong deficiencies in the simulation of the deep flow field in the basin. A switch to actual hydrographic data from the Denmark Strait ignites a rapid dynamic response throughout the North Atlantic, affecting the transport and vertical structure of the deep western boundary current and, by virtue of the JEBAR efffect, the transport of the horizontal gyres. Meridional overturning and northward heat transport too weak in the cases with climatological boundary conditions, increase to more realistic levels in the subtropical North Atlantic.

The initial response to switches in the high-latitude thermohaline forcing is mediated by fast waves along the westurn boundary, leading to changes in the deep western boundary current in low latitudes after about two years in the non-eddy-resolving cast. The initial timescale depends on the horizontal grid spacing of the model; in the high-resolution case, the first signal reaches the equator in a few months. The adjustment to a new, dynamic quasi equilibrium involves Kelvin waves along the equator and Rossby wave in the interior and is attained in less than two decades throughout the North Atlantic. It is suggested that these fast dynamic adjustment processes could play an important role in possible fluctuations of the thermohaline circulation, or transitions between different equilibrium states of the coupled ocean–atmosphere system, and may have determined the timescale of the observed climatic transitions before and during the last deglaciation.

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Caroline C. Ummenhofer
,
Arne Biastoch
, and
Claus W. Böning

Abstract

The Indian Ocean has sustained robust surface warming in recent decades, but the role of multidecadal variability remains unclear. Using ocean model hindcasts, characteristics of low-frequency Indian Ocean temperature variations are explored. Simulated upper-ocean temperature changes across the Indian Ocean in the hindcast are consistent with those recorded in observational products and ocean reanalyses. Indian Ocean temperatures exhibit strong warming trends since the 1950s limited to the surface and south of 30°S, while extensive subsurface cooling occurs over much of the tropical Indian Ocean. Previous work focused on diagnosing causes of these long-term trends in the Indian Ocean over the second half of the twentieth century. Instead, the temporal evolution of Indian Ocean subsurface heat content is shown here to reveal distinct multidecadal variations associated with the Pacific decadal oscillation, and the long-term trends are thus interpreted to result from aliasing of the low-frequency variability. Transmission of the multidecadal signal occurs via an oceanic pathway through the Indonesian Throughflow and is manifest across the Indian Ocean centered along 12°S as westward-propagating Rossby waves modulating thermocline and subsurface heat content variations. Resulting low-frequency changes in the eastern Indian Ocean thermocline depth are associated with decadal variations in the frequency of Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) events, with positive IOD events unusually common in the 1960s and 1990s with a relatively shallow thermocline. In contrast, the deeper thermocline depth in the 1970s and 1980s is associated with frequent negative IOD and rare positive IOD events. Changes in Pacific wind forcing in recent decades and associated rapid increases in Indian Ocean subsurface heat content can thus affect the basin’s leading mode of variability, with implications for regional climate and vulnerable societies in surrounding countries.

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Aike Beckmann
,
Claus W. Böning
,
Cornelia Köberle
, and
Jürgen Willebrand

Abstract

Global mean and eddy fields from a four-year experiment with a 1/6° × 1/5° horizontal resolution implementation of the CME North Atlantic model are presented. The time-averaged wind-driven and thermohaline circulation in the model is compared to the results of a 1/3° × 2/5° model run in very similar configuration. In general, the higher resolution results are found to confirm that the resolution of previous CME experiments is sufficient to describe many features of the large-scale circulation and water mass distribution quite well. While the increased resolution does not lead to large changes in the mean flow patterns, the variability in the model is enhanced significantly. On the other hand, however, not all aspects of the circulation have improved with resolution. The Azores Current Frontal Zone with its variability in the eastern basin is still represented very poorly. Particular attention is also directed toward the unrealistic stationary anticyclones north of Cape Hatteras and in the Gulf of Mexico.

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