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Francis Bringas and Gustavo Goni

Abstract

Expendable bathythermographs (XBTs) are probes widely used to monitor global ocean heat content, variability of ocean currents, and meridional heat transports. In the XBT temperature profile, the depth is estimated from the time of descent in the water using a fall-rate equation. There are two main errors in these profiles: temperature and depth errors. The reduction of error in the estimates of the depth allows a corresponding reduction in the errors in the computations in which XBTs are used. Two experiments were carried out to study the effect of the deployment height on the depth estimates of Deep Blue XBT probes. During these experiments, XBTs were deployed from different heights. The motion of the probes after entering the water was analyzed to determine the position and the velocity of the probes as a function of time, which was compared to that obtained using the Hanawa et al. fall-rate equation. Results showed a difference or offset between the experimentally observed depths and those derived from Hanawa et al. This offset was found to be linked to the deployment height. To eliminate the offset in the fall-rate equation for XBTs deployed from different heights, a methodology is proposed here based on the initial velocities of the probes in the water (or deployment height). Results indicate that the depth estimates in the profiles need to be corrected for an offset, which in addition to having a launch height dependence is time dependent during the first 1.5 s of descent of the probe in the water, and constant after that.

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Pedro N. DiNezio and Gustavo J. Goni

Abstract

This paper presents direct evidence of systematic depth errors consistent with a fall-rate bias in 52 temperature profiles collected using expendable bathythermographs (XBTs). The profiles were collected using the same recording system and under the same ocean conditions, but with XBTs manufactured during years 1986, 1990, 1991, 1995, and 2008. The depth errors are estimated by comparing each XBT profile with a collocated profile obtained from conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) casts using a methodology that unambiguously separates depth errors from temperature errors. According to the manufacture date of the probes, the XBT fall-rate error has changed from (−3.77 ± 0.57)% of depth in 1986 to (−1.05 ± 1.34)% of depth in 2008. The year dependence of the fall-rate bias can be identified with statistical significance (1σ) below 500 m, where the effect of the fall-rate bias is larger. This result is the first direct evidence of changes in the XBT fall-rate characteristics. Therefore, for the 1986–2008 period, the hypothesis that the XBT errors are due to a time-varying fall-rate bias, as hypothesized by , cannot be rejected. Additional implications for current efforts to correct the historical temperature profile database are discussed.

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Pedro N. DiNezio and Gustavo J. Goni

Abstract

A methodology is developed to identify and estimate systematic biases between expendable bathythermograph (XBT) and Argo observations using satellite altimetry. Pseudoclimatological fields of isotherm depth are computed by least squares adjustment of in situ XBT and Argo data to altimetry-derived sea height anomaly (SHA) data. In regions where the correlations between isotherm depth and SHA are high, this method reduces sampling biases in the in situ observations by taking advantage of the high temporal and spatial resolution of satellite observations. Temperature profiles from deep XBTs corrected for a bias identified and adopted during the 1990s are considered in this study. The analysis shows that the pseudoclimatological isotherm depths derived from these corrected XBTs are predominantly deeper than the Argo-derived estimates during the 2000–07 period. The XBT-minus-Argo differences increase with depth consistent with hypothesized problems in the XBT fall-rate equation. The depth-dependent XBT-minus-Argo differences suggest a global positive bias of 3% of the XBT depths. The fact that this 3% error is robust among the different ocean basins provides evidence for changes in the instrumentation, such as changes in the terminal velocity of the XBTs. The value of this error is about the inverse of the correction to the XBT fall-rate equation (FRE) implemented in 1995, suggesting that this correction, while adequate during the 1990s, is no longer appropriate and could be the source of the 3% error. This result suggests that for 2000–07, the XBT dataset can be brought to consistency with Argo by using the original FRE coefficients without the 1995 correction.

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Marlos Goes, Gustavo Goni, and Klaus Keller

Abstract

Biases in the depth estimation of expendable bathythermograph (XBT) measurements cause considerable errors in oceanic estimates of climate variables. Efforts are currently underway to improve XBT probes by including pressure switches. Information from these pressure measurements can be used to minimize errors in the XBT depth estimation. This paper presents a simple method to correct the XBT depth biases using a number of discrete pressure measurements. A blend of controlled simulations of XBT measurements and collocated XBT/CTD data is used along with statistical methods to estimate error parameters, and to optimize the use of pressure switches in terms of number of switches, optimal depth detection, and errors in the pressure switch measurements to most efficiently correct XBT profiles. The results show that given the typical XBT depth biases, using just two pressure switches is a reliable strategy for reducing depth errors, as it uses the least number of switches for an improved accuracy and reduces the variance of the resulting correction. Using only one pressure switch efficiently corrects XBT depth errors when the surface depth offset is small, its optimal location is at middepth (around or below 300 m), and the pressure switch measurement errors are insignificant. If two pressure switches are used, then results indicate that the measurements should be taken in the lower thermocline and deeper in the profile, at approximately 80 and 600 m, respectively, with an RMSE of approximately 1.6 m for pressure errors of 1 m.

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Marlos Goes, Elizabeth Babcock, Francis Bringas, Peter Ortner, and Gustavo Goni

Abstract

Expendable bathythermograph (XBT) data provide one of the longest available records of upper-ocean temperature. However, temperature and depth biases in XBT data adversely affect estimates of long-term trends of ocean heat content and, to a lesser extent, estimates of volume and heat transport in the ocean. Several corrections have been proposed to overcome historical biases in XBT data, which rely on constantly monitoring these biases. This paper provides an analysis of data collected during three recent hydrographic cruises that utilized different types of probes, and examines methods to reduce temperature and depth biases by improving the thermistor calibration and reducing the mass variability of the XBT probes.

The results obtained show that the use of individual thermistor calibration in XBT probes is the most effective calibration to decrease the thermal bias, improving the mean thermal bias to less than 0.02°C and its tolerance from 0.1° to 0.03°C. The temperature variance of probes with screened thermistors is significantly reduced by approximately 60% in comparison to standard probes. On the other hand, probes with a tighter weight tolerance did not show statistically significant reductions in the spread of depth biases, possibly because of the small sample size or the sensitivity of the depth accuracy to other causes affecting the analysis.

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Hosmay Lopez, Shenfu Dong, Sang-Ki Lee, and Gustavo Goni

Abstract

This study presents a physical mechanism on how low-frequency variability of the South Atlantic meridional heat transport (SAMHT) may influence decadal variability of atmospheric circulation. A multicentury simulation of a coupled general circulation model is used as basis for the analysis. The highlight of the findings herein is that multidecadal variability of SAMHT plays a key role in modulating global atmospheric circulation via its influence on interhemispheric redistributions of momentum, heat, and moisture. Weaker SAMHT at 30°S produces anomalous ocean heat divergence over the South Atlantic, resulting in negative ocean heat content anomalies about 15–20 years later. This forces a thermally direct anomalous interhemispheric Hadley circulation, transporting anomalous atmospheric heat from the Northern Hemisphere (NH) to the Southern Hemisphere (SH) and moisture from the SH to the NH, thereby modulating global monsoons. Further analysis shows that anomalous atmospheric eddies transport heat northward in both hemispheres, producing eddy heat flux convergence (divergence) in the NH (SH) around 15°–30°, reinforcing the anomalous Hadley circulation. The effect of eddies on the NH (SH) poleward of 30° depicts heat flux divergence (convergence), which must be balanced by sinking (rising) motion, consistent with a poleward (equatorward) displacement of the jet stream. This study illustrates that decadal variations of SAMHT could modulate the strength of global monsoons with 15–20 years of lead time, suggesting that SAMHT is a potential predictor of global monsoon variability. A similar mechanistic link exists between the North Atlantic meridional heat transport (NAMHT) at 30°N and global monsoons.

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Lynn K. Shay, Gustavo J. Goni, and Peter G. Black

Abstract

On 4 October 1995, Hurricane Opal deepened from 965 to 916 hPa in the Gulf of Mexico over a 14-h period upon encountering a warm core ring (WCR) in the ocean shed by the Loop Current during an upper-level atmospheric trough interaction. Based on historical hydrographic measurements placed within the context of a two-layer model and surface height anomalies (SHA) from the radar altimeter on the TOPEX mission, upper-layer thickness fields indicated the presence of two warm core rings during September and October 1995. As Hurricane Opal passed directly over one of these WCRs, the 1-min surface winds increased from 35 to more than 60 m s−1, and the radius of maximum wind decreased from 40 to 25 km. Pre-Opal SHAs in the WCR exceeded 30 cm where the estimated depth of the 20°C isotherm was located between 175 and 200 m. Subsequent to Opal’s passage, this depth decreased approximately 50 m, which suggests upwelling underneath the storm track due to Ekman divergence.

The maximum heat loss of approximately 24 Kcal cm−2 relative to depth of the 26°C isotherm was a factor of 6 times the threshold value required to sustain a hurricane. Since most of this loss occurred over a period of 14 h, the heat content loss of 24 Kcal cm−2 equates to approximately 20 kW m−2. Previous observational findings suggest that about 10%–15% of upper-ocean cooling is due to surface heat fluxes. Estimated surface heat fluxes based upon heat content changes range from 2000 to 3000 W m−2 in accord with numerically simulated surface heat fluxes during Opal’s encounter with the WCR. Composited AVHRR-derived SSTs indicated a 2°–3°C cooling associated with vertical mixing in the along-track direction of Opal except over the WCR where AVHRR-derived and buoy-derived SSTs decreased only by about 0.5°–1°C. Thus, the WCR’s effect was to provide a regime of positive feedback to the hurricane rather than negative feedback induced by cooler waters due to upwelling and vertical mixing as observed over the Bay of Campeche and north of the WCR.

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Marlos Goes, Gustavo Goni, Shenfu Dong, Timothy Boyer, and Molly Baringer

Abstract

This work assesses the value of expendable bathythermograph (XBT) and Argo profiling float observations to monitor the Atlantic Ocean boundary current systems (BCS), meridional overturning circulation (MOC), and meridional heat transport (MHT). Data from six XBT transects and available Argo floats in the Atlantic Ocean for the period from 2000 to 2018 are used to estimate the structure and variability of the BCS, MOC, and MHT, taking into account different temporal and spatial mapping strategies. The comparison of Argo data density along these six XBT transects shows that Argo observations outnumber XBT observations only above mapping scales of 30 days and 3° boxes. The comparison of Argo and XBT data for the Brazil Current and Gulf Stream shows that Argo cannot reproduce the structure and variability of these currents, as it lacks sufficient resolution to resolve the gradients across these narrow jets. For the MHT and MOC, Argo estimates are similar to those produced by XBTs at a coarse mapping resolution of 5° and 30 days. However, at such a coarse resolution the root-mean-square errors calculated for both XBT and Argo estimates relative to a high-resolution baseline are higher than 3 Sv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) and 0.25 PW for the MOC and MHT, respectively, accounting for about 25%–30% of their mean values due to the smoothing of eddy variability along the transects. A key result of this study is that using Argo and XBT data jointly, rather than separately, improves the estimates of MHT, MOC, and BCS.

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Francisco J. Beron-Vera, María J. Olascoaga, and Gustavo J. Goni

Abstract

Two sea surface height (SSH) anomaly fields distributed by Archiving, Validation, and Interpretation of Satellite Oceanographic (AVISO) Altimetry are evaluated in terms of the effects that they produce on mixing. One SSH anomaly field, tagged REF, is constructed using measurements made by two satellite altimeters; the other SSH anomaly field, tagged UPD, is constructed using measurements made by up to four satellite altimeters. Advection is supplied by surface geostrophic currents derived from the total SSH fields resulting from the addition of these SSH anomaly fields to a mean SSH field. Emphasis is placed on the extraction from the currents of Lagrangian coherent structures (LCSs), which, acting as skeletons for patterns formed by passively advected tracers, entirely control mixing. The diagnostic tool employed to detect LCSs is provided by the computation of finite-time Lyapunov exponents. It is found that currents inferred using UPD SSH anomalies support mixing with characteristics similar to those of mixing produced by currents inferred using REF SSH anomalies. This result mainly follows from the fact that, being more easily characterized as chaotic than turbulent, mixing as sustained by currents derived using UPD SSH anomalies is quite insensitive to spatiotemporal truncations of the advection field.

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Michelle Mainelli, Mark DeMaria, Lynn K. Shay, and Gustavo Goni

Abstract

Research investigating the importance of the subsurface ocean structure on tropical cyclone intensity change has been ongoing for several decades. While the emergence of altimetry-derived sea height observations from satellites dates back to the 1980s, it was difficult and uncertain as to how to utilize these measurements in operations as a result of the limited coverage. As the in situ measurement coverage expanded, it became possible to estimate the upper oceanic heat content (OHC) over most ocean regions. Beginning in 2002, daily OHC analyses have been generated at the National Hurricane Center (NHC). These analyses are used qualitatively for the official NHC intensity forecast, and quantitatively to adjust the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS) forecasts. The primary purpose of this paper is to describe how upper-ocean structure information was transitioned from research to operations, and how it is being used to generate NHC’s hurricane intensity forecasts. Examples of the utility of this information for recent category 5 hurricanes (Isabel, Ivan, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma from the 2003–05 hurricane seasons) are also presented. Results show that for a large sample of Atlantic storms, the OHC variations have a small but positive impact on the intensity forecasts. However, for intense storms, the effect of the OHC is much more significant, suggestive of its importance on rapid intensification. The OHC input improved the average intensity errors of the SHIPS forecasts by up to 5% for all cases from the category 5 storms, and up to 20% for individual storms, with the maximum improvement for the 72–96-h forecasts. The qualitative use of the OHC information on the NHC intensity forecasts is also described. These results show that knowledge of the upper-ocean thermal structure is fundamental to accurately forecasting intensity changes of tropical cyclones, and that this knowledge is making its way into operations. The statistical results obtained here indicate that the OHC only becomes important when it has values much larger than that required to support a tropical cyclone. This result suggests that the OHC is providing a measure of the upper ocean’s influence on the storm and improving the forecast.

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