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  • Author or Editor: Georgy E Manucharyan x
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Georgy E. Manucharyan and Alexey V. Fedorov

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a pronounced mode of climate variability that originates in the tropical Pacific and affects weather patterns worldwide. Growing evidence suggests that despite extensive changes in tropical climate, ENSO was active over vast geological epochs stretching millions of years from the late Cretaceous to the Holocene. In particular, ENSO persisted during the Pliocene, when a dramatic reduction occurred in the mean east–west temperature gradient in the equatorial Pacific. The mechanisms for sustained ENSO in such climates are poorly understood. Here a comprehensive climate model is used to simulate ENSO for a broad range of tropical Pacific mean climates characterized by different climatological SST gradients. It is found that the simulated ENSO remains surprisingly robust: when the east–west gradient is reduced from 6° to 1°C, the amplitude of ENSO decreases only by 30%–40%, its dominant period remains close to 3–4 yr, and the spectral peak stays above red noise. To explain these results, the magnitude of ocean–atmosphere feedbacks that control the stability of the natural mode of ENSO (the Bjerknes stability index) is evaluated. It is found that as a result of reorganization of the atmospheric Walker circulation in response to changes in the mean surface temperature gradient, the growth/decay rates of the ENSO mode stay nearly constant throughout different climates. These results explain the persistence of ENSO in the past and, in particular, reconcile the seemingly contradictory findings of ENSO occurrence and the small mean east–west temperature gradient during the Pliocene.

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Georgy E. Manucharyan and Mary-Louise Timmermans

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This study is motivated by Arctic Ocean observations of sub–mixed layer eddies found at large distances from their assumed formation region of a surface ocean front. Eddy formation is explored through high-resolution numerical simulations of surface fronts, separating two mixed layers, with a range of configurations similar to those observed in the Arctic Ocean. This study finds that frontal instabilities lead to the development of self-propagating dipoles, which have the potential to propagate far from the front if interactions with other eddies are avoided. However, most dipoles are unbalanced, consisting of a dominating surface cyclone and a weaker anticyclone below, and thus propagate on curved trajectories with eventual recirculation back to the front. Their maximum separation distance from the front depends on the ratio of self-advecting velocities ϵ; balanced dipoles that have ϵ ≈ 1, and the ability to propagate far from the front. For dipoles generated numerically, this study estimates ϵ using analytical solutions of a 2½-layer quasigeostrophic model for Gaussian vortices. The distribution of the ratio ϵ for these dipoles is found to be skewed toward higher values (i.e., cyclones are dominant in dipoles). Sensitivity experiments suggest that shallow fronts that separate mixed layers of approximately equal depths favor the development of balanced dipoles that can self-propagate over long distances.

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Georgy E. Manucharyan, Andrew F. Thompson, and Michael A. Spall

Abstract

Mesoscale eddies shape the Beaufort Gyre response to Ekman pumping, but their transient dynamics are poorly understood. Climate models commonly use the Gent–McWilliams (GM) parameterization, taking the eddy streamfunction to be proportional to an isopycnal slope s and an eddy diffusivity K. This local-in-time parameterization leads to exponential equilibration of currents. Here, an idealized, eddy-resolving Beaufort Gyre model is used to demonstrate that carries a finite memory of past ocean states, violating a key GM assumption. As a consequence, an equilibrating gyre follows a spiral sink trajectory implying the existence of a damped mode of variability—the eddy memory (EM) mode. The EM mode manifests during the spinup as a 15% overshoot in isopycnal slope (2000 km3 freshwater content overshoot) and cannot be explained by the GM parameterization. An improved parameterization is developed, such that is proportional to an effective isopycnal slope , carrying a finite memory γ of past slopes. Introducing eddy memory explains the model results and brings to light an oscillation with a period ≈ 50 yr, where the eddy diffusion time scale T E ~ 10 yr and γ ≈ 6 yr are diagnosed from the eddy-resolving model. The EM mode increases the Ekman-driven gyre variance by γ/T E ≈ 50% ± 15%, a fraction that stays relatively constant despite both time scales decreasing with increased mean forcing. This study suggests that the EM mode is a general property of rotating turbulent flows and highlights the need for better observational constraints on transient eddy field characteristics.

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Georgy E. Manucharyan, Michael A. Spall, and Andrew F. Thompson

Abstract

The halocline of the Beaufort Gyre varies significantly on interannual to decadal time scales, affecting the freshwater content (FWC) of the Arctic Ocean. This study explores the role of eddies in the Ekman-driven gyre variability. Following the transformed Eulerian-mean paradigm, the authors develop a theory that links the FWC variability to the stability of the large-scale gyre, defined as the inverse of its equilibration time. The theory, verified with eddy-resolving numerical simulations, demonstrates that the gyre stability is explicitly controlled by the mesoscale eddy diffusivity. An accurate representation of the halocline dynamics requires the eddy diffusivity of 300 ± 200 m2 s−1, which is lower than what is used in most low-resolution climate models. In particular, on interannual and longer time scales the eddy fluxes and the Ekman pumping provide equally important contributions to the FWC variability. However, only large-scale Ekman pumping patterns can significantly alter the FWC, with spatially localized perturbations being an order of magnitude less efficient. Lastly, the authors introduce a novel FWC tendency diagnostic—the Gyre Index—that can be conveniently calculated using observations located only along the gyre boundaries. Its strong predictive capabilities, assessed in the eddy-resolving model forced by stochastic winds, suggest that the Gyre Index would be of use in interpreting FWC evolution in observations as well as in numerical models.

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Jessica S. Kenigson, Renske Gelderloos, and Georgy E. Manucharyan

Abstract

Theories of the Beaufort Gyre (BG) dynamics commonly represent the halocline as a single layer with a thickness depending on the Eulerian-mean and eddy-induced overturning. However, observations suggest that the isopycnal slope increases with depth, and a theory to explain this profile remains outstanding. Here we develop a multilayer model of the BG, including the Eulerian-mean velocity, mesoscale eddy activity, diapycnal mixing, and lateral boundary fluxes, and use it to investigate the dynamics within the Pacific Winter Water (PWW) layer. Using theoretical considerations, observational data, and idealized simulations, we demonstrate that the eddy overturning is critical in explaining the observed vertical structure. In the absence of the eddy overturning, the Ekman pumping and the relatively weak vertical mixing would displace isopycnals in a nearly parallel fashion, contrary to observations. This study finds that the observed increase of the isopycnal slope with depth in the climatological state of the gyre is consistent with a Gent–McWilliams eddy diffusivity coefficient that decreases by at least 10%–40% over the PWW layer. We further show that the depth-dependent eddy diffusivity profile can explain the relative magnitude of the correlated isopycnal depth and layer thickness fluctuations on interannual time scales. Our inference that the eddy overturning generates the isopycnal layer thickness gradients is consistent with the parameterization of eddies via a Gent–McWilliams scheme but not potential vorticity diffusion. This study implies that using a depth-independent eddy diffusivity, as is commonly done in low-resolution ocean models, may contribute to misrepresentation of the interior BG dynamics.

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