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Enric Pallàs-Sanz and Álvaro Viúdez

Abstract

The three-dimensional motion of mesoscale baroclinic dipoles is simulated using a nonhydrostatic Boussinesq numerical model. The initial conditions are two ellipsoidal vortices of positive and negative potential vorticity anomalies. The flow is moderately ageostrophic with a maximum absolute Rossby number equal to 0.71. The trajectory of the dipole is related to the maximum potential vorticity anomaly and size of the vortices. Three cases are considered depending on the curvature of the dipole trajectory: negative, close to zero, and positive. The ageostrophic flow strongly depends on the distance between the ellipsoidal vortices d 0. For small d 0 the vortices move steadily as a compact dipole, and the vertical velocity w has an octupolar three-dimensional pattern. The horizontal ageostrophic velocity is due to the advective acceleration of the flow, particularly the centripetal acceleration. The speed acceleration is only relatively important at the rear and front parts of the dipole axis, where the flow curvature is small but where the flow confluence and diffluence are, respectively, large. The geostrophy is maximal at the dipole center, on the dipole axis, where both curvature and speed acceleration are minimal. As d 0 increases, the dipole self-propagating velocity and the extreme values of |w| decrease, and vortex oscillations highly distort the octupolar pattern of w. In all cases, as is typical of balanced mesoscale geophysical flows, the vertical velocity is related to the advection of vertical vorticity by the horizontal shear velocity u hz · hζ.

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Enric Pallàs-Sanz and Álvaro Viúdez

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The spontaneous generation and propagation of short-scale inertia–gravity waves (IGWs) during the merging of two initially balanced (void of IGWs) baroclinic anticyclones is numerically investigated. The IGW generation is analyzed in flows with different potential vorticity (PV) anomaly, numerical diffusion, numerical resolution, vortex aspect ratio, and background rotation. The vertical velocity and its vertical derivative are used to identify the IGWs in the total flow, while the unbalanced flow (the waves) is diagnosed using the optimal PV balance approach. Spontaneous generation of IGWs occurs in all the cases, primarily as emissions of discrete wave packets. The increase of both the vortex strength and vortex extent isotropy enhances the IGW emission. Three possible indicators, or theories, of spontaneous IGW generation are considered, namely, the advection of PV, the material rate of change of the horizontal divergence, and the three-dimensional baroclinic IGW generation analogy of Lighthill sound radiation theory. It is suggested that different mechanisms for spontaneous IGW generation may be at work. One mechanism is related to the advection of PV, with the IGWs in this case having wave fronts similar to the PV isosurfaces in the upper layers, and helical patterns in the deep layers. Trapped IGWs are ubiquitous in the vortex interior and have annular wave front patterns. Another mechanism is related to the spatially coherent motion of preexisting IGWs, which eventually cooperate to produce mean flow, in particular larger-scale horizontal divergence, and therefore larger-scale vertical motion, which in turns triggers the emission of new IGWs.

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Enric Pallàs Sanz and Álvaro Viúdez

Abstract

The mesoscale vertical velocity is obtained by solving a generalized omega equation (ω equation) using density and horizontal velocity data from three consecutive quasi-synoptic high-resolution surveys in the Alboran Sea. The Atlantic Jet (AJ) and the northern part of the Western Alboran Gyre (WAG) were observed as a large density anticyclonic front extending down to 200–230 m. The horizontal velocity u h in the AJ reached maxima of 1.2 m s−1 for the three surveys, with extreme Rossby numbers of ζ/f ≈ −0.9 in the WAG and +0.9 in the AJ (where ζ is the vertical vorticity and f is the Coriolis parameter). The generalized ω equation includes the ageostrophic horizontal flow. It is found that the most important “forcing” term in this equation is ( fζ ph + hϱ) · 2 h u h, where ζ ph is the horizontal (pseudo) vorticity and ϱ is the buoyancy. This term is related to the horizontal advection of vertical vorticity by the vertical shear velocity, u hz · hζ. Extreme values of the diagnosed vertical velocity w were located at 80–100 m with max{w} ⊂ [34, 45] and min{w} ⊂ [−64, −34] m day−1. Comparison with the quasigeostrophic (QG) ω equation shows that, because of the large Rossby numbers, non-QG terms are important. The differences between w and the QG vertical velocity are mainly related to the divergence of the ageostrophic part of the total Q vector (Q h h u h · hϱ) in the ω equation.

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Ke Chen, Peter Gaube, and Enric Pallàs-Sanz

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We examine various contributions to the vertical velocity field within large mesoscale eddies by analyzing multiple solutions to an idealized numerical model of a representative anticyclonic warm core Gulf Stream ring. Initial conditions are constructed to reproduce the observed density and nutrient profiles collected during the Warm Core Rings Program. The contributions to vertical fluxes diagnosed from the numerical simulations are compared against a divergence-based, semidiagnostic equation and a generalized omega equation to better understand the dynamics of the vertical velocity field. Frictional decay alone is found to be ineffective in raising isopycnals and transporting nutrients to the upper ocean. With representative wind forcing, the magnitude of vorticity gradient–induced Ekman pumping is not necessarily larger than the current-induced counterpart on a time scale relevant to ecosystem response. Under realistic forcing conditions, strain deformation can perturb the ring to be noncircular and induce vertical velocities much larger than the Ekman vertical velocities. Nutrient budget diagnosis, together with analysis of the relative magnitudes of the various types of vertical fluxes, allows us to describe the time-scale dependence of nutrient delivery. At time scales that are relevant to individual phytoplankton (from hours to days), the magnitudes of nutrient flux by Ekman velocities and deformation-induced velocities are comparable. Over the life span of a typical warm core ring, which can span multiple seasons, surface current–induced Ekman pumping is the most effective mechanism in upper-ocean nutrient enrichment because of its persistence in the center of anticyclones regardless of the direction of the wind forcing.

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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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Lingling Xie, Enric Pallàs-Sanz, Quanan Zheng, Shuwen Zhang, Xiaolong Zong, Xiaofei Yi, and Mingming Li

Abstract

Using the generalized omega equation and cruise observations in July 2012, this study analyzes the 3D vertical circulation in the upwelling region and frontal zone east of Hainan Island, China. The results show that there is a strong frontal zone in subsurface layer along the 100-m isobath, which is characterized by density gradient of O(10−4) kg m−4 and vertical eddy diffusivity of O(10−5–10−4) m2 s−1. The kinematic deformation term S DEF, ageostrophic advection term S ADV, and vertical mixing forcing term S MIX are calculated from the observations. Their distribution patterns are featured by banded structure, that is, alternating positive–negative alongshore bands distributed in the cross-shelf direction. Correspondingly, alternating upwelling and downwelling bands appear from the coast to the deep waters. The maximum downward velocity reaches −5 × 10−5 m s−1 within the frontal zone, accompanied by the maximum upward velocity of 7 × 10−5 m s−1 on two sides. The dynamic diagnosis indicates that S ADV contributes most to the coastal upwelling, while term S DEF, which is dominated by the ageostrophic component S DEFa, plays a dominant role in the frontal zone. The vertical mixing forcing term S MIX, which includes the momentum and buoyancy flux terms S MOM and S BUO, is comparable to S DEF and S ADV in the upper ocean, but negligible below the thermocline. The effect of the vertical mixing on the vertical velocity is mainly concentrated at depths with relatively large eddy diffusivity and eddy diffusivity gradient in the frontal zone.

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M. Tenreiro, Julio Candela, Enric Pallàs Sanz, Julio Sheinbaum, and José Ochoa

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The coupling between the upper (z < 1000-m depth) and deep (z > 1500 m) circulation in the western Gulf of Mexico (WGoM) driven by the arrival of Loop Current eddies (LCEs) is analyzed from moorings measuring horizontal velocity in the full water column during a 5-yr period (October 2008–October 2013). Nine LCEs crossing the mooring array are documented. A composite of these events shows that strong northward currents at depth having speeds of 0.1–0.2 m s−1 precede (~10–20 days) the strong northward near-surface currents (~0.5 m s−1) characteristic of the western rim of the LCEs. These deep northward flow intensifications are followed by southward deep flows coupled with the surface-intensified southward current of the eastern (rear) part of the LCEs crossing the array. These results are consistent with the existence of a deep anticyclone leading and a cyclone trailing the upper-layer LCEs. Objectively interpolated regional maps of velocities and vertical vorticity obtained from up to 30 moorings indicate the mean circulation at 100-m depth in the northern WGoM is mostly anticyclonic and enhanced by the arrival of the westward-propagating LCEs, while the southern part is dominated by the presence of a semipermanent cyclonic structure (Bay of Campeche cyclonic gyre). At 1500-m depth, the mean circulation follows the slope in a cyclonic sense and shows a cyclonic vorticity maximum on the abyssal plane consistent with the LCE deep flow composites. This suggests the LCEs strongly modulate not only the upper-layer circulation but also impact the deep flow.

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Thomas Meunier, Enric Pallàs Sanz, Miguel Tenreiro, José Ochoa, Angel Ruiz Angulo, and Christian Buckingham

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Two glider transects in the Gulf of Mexico reveal fine-vertical-scale thermohaline structures within a Loop Current eddy (LCE). Partially compensating temperature and salinity anomalies are shown to organize as thin layers below the eddy and near its edges. The anomalies have vertical scales ranging from 2 to 60 m and extend laterally over distances up to 120 km. These structures are evident in synthetic acoustic reflectivity derived from the glider data and are reminiscent of the intense layering observed in seismic imagery around meddies, Agulhas rings, and warm-core Kuroshio rings. The observed layers are aligned with the geostrophic streamfunction rather than isopycnals and develop preferentially in zones of intense vertical shear. These observations suggest that tracer stirring by the eddy’s vertically sheared azimuthal flow might be an important process for their generation. In an attempt to rationalize this process, high-resolution quasigeostrophic simulations were performed using an idealized anticyclonic ring for the initial conditions. As the vortex destabilizes, layering rapidly develops in the model, resulting in structures similar to those found in the observation data. Passive tracer experiments also suggest that the layers form through differential advection of the tracer field by the vertically sheared flow associated with the LCE.

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Julien Jouanno, José Ochoa, Enric Pallàs-Sanz, Julio Sheinbaum, Fernando Andrade-Canto, Julio Candela, and Jean-Marc Molines

Abstract

Velocity data from a mooring array deployed northeast of the Campeche Bank (CB) show the presence of subinertial, high-frequency (below 15 days) velocity fluctuations within the core of the northward flowing Loop Current. These fluctuations are associated with the presence of surface-intensified Loop Current frontal eddies (LCFEs), with cyclonic vorticity and diameter < 100 km. These eddies are well reproduced by a high-resolution numerical simulation of the Gulf of Mexico, and the model analysis suggests that they originate along and north of the CB, their main energy source being the mixed baroclinic–barotropic instability of the northward flow along the shelf break. There is no indication that these high-frequency LCFEs contribute to the LC eddy detachment in contrast to the low-frequency LCFEs (periods > 30 days) that have been linked to Caribbean eddies and the LC separation process. Model results show that wind variability associated with winter cold surges are responsible for the emergence of high-frequency LCFEs in a narrow band of periods (6–10 day) in the region of the CB. The dynamical link between the formation of these LCFEs and the wind variability is not direct: (i) the large-scale wind perturbations generate sea level anomalies on the CB as well as first baroclinic mode, coastally trapped waves in the western Gulf of Mexico; (ii) these waves propagate cyclonically along the coast; and (iii) the interaction of these anomalies with the Loop Current triggers cyclonic vorticity perturbations that grow in intensity as they propagate downstream and develop into cyclonic eddies when they flow north of the Yucatan shelf.

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Bàrbara Barceló-Llull, Enric Pallàs-Sanz, Pablo Sangrà, Antonio Martínez-Marrero, Sheila N. Estrada-Allis, and Javier Arístegui

Abstract

Vertical motions play a key role in the enhancement of primary production within mesoscale eddies through the introduction of nutrients into the euphotic layer. However, the details of the vertical velocity field w driving these enhancements remain under discussion. For the first time the mesoscale w associated with an intrathermocline eddy is computed and analyzed using in situ high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) fields of density and horizontal velocity by resolving a generalized omega equation valid for high Rossby numbers. In the seasonal pycnocline the diagnosed w reveals a multipolar structure with upwelling and downwelling cells located at the eddy periphery. In the main pycnocline w is characterized by a dipolar structure with downwelling velocities upstream of the propagation path and upwelling velocities downstream. Maximum values of w reach 6.4 m day−1. An observed enhancement of chlorophyll-a at the eddy periphery coincides with the location of the upwelling and downwelling cells. Analysis of the forcing terms of the generalized omega equation indicates that the mechanisms behind the dipolar structure of the w field are a combination of horizontal deformation and advection of vertical relative vorticity by ageostrophic vertical shear. The wind during the eddy sampling was rather constant and uniform with a speed of 5 m s−1. Diagnosed nonlinear Ekman pumping leads to a dipolar pattern that mirrors the inferred w. Horizontal ageostrophic secondary circulation is dominated by centripetal acceleration and closes the dipole w structure. Vertical fluxes act to maintain the intrathermocline eddy structure.

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