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Ivana Cerovečki and John Marshall

Abstract

Eddy modulation of the air–sea interaction and convection that occurs in the process of mode water formation is analyzed in simulations of a baroclinically unstable wind- and buoyancy-driven jet. The watermass transformation analysis of Walin is used to estimate the formation rate of mode water and to characterize the role of eddies in that process. It is found that diabatic eddy heat flux divergences in the mixed layer are comparable in magnitude, but of opposite sign, to the surface air–sea heat flux and largely cancel the direct effect of buoyancy loss to the atmosphere. The calculations suggest that mode water formation estimates based on climatological air–sea heat flux data and outcrops, which do not fully resolve ocean eddies, may neglect a large opposing term in the heat budget and are thus likely to significantly overestimate true formation rates. In Walin’s watermass transformation framework, this manifests itself as a sensitivity of formation rate estimates to the averaging period over which the outcrops and air–sea fluxes are subjected. The key processes are described in terms of a transformed Eulerian-mean formalism in which eddy-induced mean flow tends to cancel the Eulerian-mean flow, resulting in weaker residual mean flow, subduction, and mode water formation rates.

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Ivana Cerovečki and Donata Giglio

Abstract

Analysis of Argo temperature and salinity profiles (gridded at 0.5° × 0.5° resolution for 2005–12) shows a strong North Pacific Subtropical Mode Water (NPSTMW) volume and density decrease during 2006–09. In this time period, upper-ocean temperature, stratification, and potential vorticity (PV) all increased within the region in and around the NPSTMW low-PV pool, contributing to the NPSTMW volume decrease in two ways: (i) the volume of water satisfying the low-PV constraint that is part of the “mode water” definition decreased, and (ii) some water that was initially in the NPSTMW density range σ θ = 25.0–25.5 kg m−3 was transformed into lighter water. Both changes in density and in PV in the NPSTMW region were a manifestation of basinwide changes. A positive PV anomaly started to propagate westward from the central Pacific in 2005, followed by a negative density anomaly in 2007, which caused a dramatic NPSTMW volume and density decrease.

A Walin estimate of surface formation in the NPSTMW density range accounted better (although not entirely) for the interannual variability of the volume of water in the NPSTMW density range without imposing the PV < 2 × 10−10 m−1 s−1 constraint than did the same estimate with the PV constraint imposed. This underlines the importance of the PV constraint in identifying the mode water. The mode water evolution cannot be fully described from a density budget alone; rather, the PV budget must be considered simultaneously.

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Ivana Cerovečki and Matthew R. Mazloff

Abstract

A coupled ice–ocean eddy-permitting Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE) for 2008–10 is used to describe and quantify the processes forming and destroying water in the Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) density range (σ θ = 26.7–27.2 kg m−3). All the terms in the temperature and salinity equations have been diagnosed to obtain a three-dimensional and time-varying volume budget for individual isopycnal layers. This study finds that air–sea buoyancy fluxes, diapycnal mixing, advection, and storage are all important to the SAMW volume budget. The formation and destruction of water in the SAMW density range occurs over a large latitude range because of the seasonal migration of the outcrop window. The strongest formation is by wintertime surface ocean heat loss occurring equatorward of the Subantarctic Front. Spring and summertime formation occur in the polar gyres through the freshening of water with σ θ > 27.2 kg m−3, with an important contribution from sea ice melt. Further buoyancy gain by heating is accomplished only after these waters have already been transformed into the SAMW density range. The spatially integrated and time-averaged SAMW formation rate in the ocean surface layer is 7.9 Sverdrups (Sv; 1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) by air–sea buoyancy fluxes and 8.8 Sv by diapycnal mixing, and it is balanced by advective export into the interior ocean. Maps show that these average rates are the result of highly variable processes with strong cancellation in both space and time, revealing the complexity of water mass transformation in the three-dimensional Southern Ocean overturning circulation.

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Ivana Cerovečki and Roland de Szoeke

Abstract

Satellite observations and idealized numerical studies reveal intensification of long-period (on the order of one cycle per year) waves in the western part of ocean basins. The authors explore the idea that the intensification is associated with the spatial growth of purely time periodic, but baroclinically unstable, motions. The framework is a simple idealized 2½-layer model in which only the upper layer is directly forced by the wind, a setting similar to the shadow zone of the Luyten–Pedlosky–Stommel (LPS) model. The upper two layers participate in the wave motion, which is driven by a large-scale wind stress fluctuating with the annual period, representing the seasonal cycle. Although possibly unstable solutions exist everywhere in the subtropical gyre on account of the nonzero meridional background flow, they are not seen in the eastern part of the basin in satellite observations nor are they excited there by model gyre-scale annual-period winds. Instead, energy injected into the model ocean at a fixed frequency and with zonal and meridional wavenumbers, such that the resulting flow perturbation is locally stable, refracts westward as it propagates through the spatially varying background flow without change of frequency and reaches distant regions where the spatial wavenumber becomes complex so that spatial growth occurs. This process results in spatially growing solutions of annual or near-annual frequency only in the southwestern part of the model subtropical gyre, thus explaining why the intensification is preferentially manifested in the southwestern subtropical gyre in published numerical model results. The paper concludes with a discussion of relevant satellite and in situ observations.

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Ivana Cerovečki and Roland A. de Szoeke

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to understand how long planetary waves evolve when propagating in a subtropical gyre. The steady flow of a wind-driven vertically sheared model subtropical gyre is perturbed by Ekman pumping that is localized within a region of finite lateral extent and oscillates periodically at about the annual frequency after sudden initiation. Both the background flow and the infinitesimal perturbations are solutions of a 2½-layer model. The region of forcing is located in the eastern part of the gyre where the steady flow is confined to the uppermost layer (shadow zone). The lateral scales of the forcing and of the response are supposed to be small enough with respect to the overall gyre scale that the background flow may be idealized as horizontally uniform, yet large enough (greater than the baroclinic Rossby radii) that the long-wave approximation may be made. The latter approximation limits the length of time over which the solutions remain valid. The solutions consist of (i) a forced response oscillating at the forcing frequency in which both stable (real) and zonally growing (complex) meridional wavenumbers are excited plus (ii) a localized transient structure that grows as it propagates away from the region of forcing. Application of the method of stationary phase provides analytical solutions that permit clear separation of the directly forced part of the solution and the transient as well as estimation of the temporal growth rate of the transient, which proves to be convectively unstable. The solutions presented here are relevant to understanding the instability of periodic (including annual period) perturbations of oceanic subtropical gyres on scales larger than the baroclinic Rossby radii of deformation.

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Ivana Cerovečki, R. Alan Plumb, and William Heres

Abstract

The baroclinically unstable wind- and buoyancy-driven flow in a zonally reentrant pie-shaped sector on a sphere is numerically modeled and then analyzed using the transformed Eulerian-mean (TEM) formalism. Mean fields are obtained by zonal and time averaging performed at fixed height. The very large latitudinal extent of the basin (50.7°S latitude to the equator) allows the latitude variation of the Coriolis parameter to strongly influence the flow. Persistent zonal jets are observed in the statistically steady state. Reynolds stress terms play an important role in redistributing zonal angular momentum: convergence of the lateral momentum flux gives rise to a strong eastward jet, with an adjacent westward jet equatorward and weaker multiple jets poleward. An equally prominent feature of the flow is a strong and persistent eddy that has the structure of a Kelvin cat’s eye and generally occupies the zonal width of the basin at latitudes 15°–10°S.

A strongly mixed surface diabatic zone overlies the near-adiabatic interior, within which Ertel potential vorticity (but not thickness) is homogenized along the mean isopycnals everywhere in the basin where eddies have developed (and thus is not homogenized equatorward of the most energetic eastward jet). A region of low potential vorticity (PV) is formed adjacent to the strong baroclinic front associated with that jet and subsequently maintained by strong convective events.

The eddy buoyancy flux is dominated by its skew component over large parts of the near-adiabatic interior, with cross-isopycnal components present only in the vicinity of the main jet and in the surface diabatic layer. Close to the main jet, the cross-isopycnal components are dominantly balanced by the triple correlation terms in the buoyancy variance budget, while the advection of buoyancy variance by the mean flow is not a dominant term in the eddy buoyancy variance budget.

Along-isopycnal mixing in the near-adiabatic interior is estimated by applying the effective diffusivity diagnostic of Nakamura. The effective diffusivity is large at the flanks of the mean jet and beneath it and small in the jet core. The apparent horizontal diffusivity for buoyancy obtained from the flux–gradient relationship is the same magnitude as the effective diffusivity, but the structures are rather different. The diapycnal diffusivity is strongest in the surface layer and also in a convectively unstable region that extends to depths of hundreds of meters beneath the equatorward flank of the main jet.

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Ivana Cerovečki and Andrew J. S. Meijers

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The deepest wintertime (July–September) mixed layers associated with Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW) formation develop in the Indian and Pacific sectors of the Southern Ocean. In these two sectors the dominant interannual variability of both deep wintertime mixed layers and SAMW volume is an east–west dipole pattern in each basin. The variability of these dipoles is strongly correlated with the interannual variability of overlying winter quasi-stationary mean sea level pressure (MSLP) anomalies. Anomalously strong positive MSLP anomalies are found to result in the deepening of the wintertime mixed layers and an increase in the SAMW formation in the eastern parts of the dipoles in the Pacific and Indian sectors. These effects are due to enhanced cold southerly meridional winds, strengthened zonal winds, and increased surface ocean heat loss. The opposite occurs in the western parts of the dipoles in these sectors. Conversely, strong negative MSLP anomalies result in shoaling (deepening) of the wintertime mixed layers and a decrease (increase) in SAMW formation in the eastern (western) regions. The MSLP variabilities of the Pacific and Indian basin anomalies are not always in phase, especially in years with a strong El Niño, resulting in different patterns of SAMW formation in the western versus eastern parts of the Indian and Pacific sectors. Strong isopycnal depth and thickness anomalies develop in the SAMW density range in years with strong MSLP anomalies. When advected eastward, they act to precondition downstream SAMW formation in the subsequent winter.

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Ivana Cerovečki, Lynne D. Talley, and Matthew R. Mazloff

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The authors have intercompared the following six surface buoyancy flux estimates, averaged over the years 2005–07: two reanalyses [the recent ECMWF reanalysis (ERA-Interim; hereafter ERA), and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–NCAR reanalysis 1 (hereafter NCEP1)], two recent flux products developed as an improvement of NCEP1 [the flux product by Large and Yeager and the Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE)], and two ad hoc air–sea flux estimates that are obtained by combining the NCEP1 or ERA net radiative fluxes with turbulent flux estimates using the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (COARE) 3.0 bulk formulas with NCEP1 or ERA input variables.

The accuracy of SOSE adjustments of NCEP1 atmospheric fields (which SOSE uses as an initial guess and a constraint) was assessed by verification that SOSE reduces the biases in the NCEP1 fluxes as diagnosed by the Working Group on Air–Sea Fluxes (Taylor), suggesting that oceanic observations may be a valuable constraint to improve atmospheric variables.

Compared with NCEP1, both SOSE and Large and Yeager increase the net ocean heat loss in high latitudes, decrease ocean heat loss in the subtropical Indian Ocean, decrease net evaporation in the subtropics, and decrease net precipitation in polar latitudes. The large-scale pattern of SOSE and Large and Yeager turbulent heat flux adjustment is similar, but the magnitude of SOSE adjustments is significantly larger. Their radiative heat flux adjustments patterns differ. Turbulent heat fluxes determined by combining COARE bulk formulas with NCEP1 or ERA should not be combined with unmodified NCEP1 or ERA radiative fluxes as the net ocean heat gain poleward of 25°S becomes unrealistically large. The other surface flux products (i.e., NCEP1, ERA, Large and Yeager, and SOSE) balance more closely.

Overall, the statistical estimates of the differences between the various air–sea heat flux products tend to be largest in regions with strong ocean mesoscale activity such as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the western boundary currents.

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Guillaume Maze, Gael Forget, Martha Buckley, John Marshall, and Ivana Cerovecki

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The Walin water mass framework quantifies the rate at which water is transformed from one temperature class to another by air–sea heat fluxes (transformation). The divergence of the transformation rate yields the rate at which a given temperature range is created or destroyed by air–sea heat fluxes (formation). Walin’s framework provides a precise integral statement at the expense of losing spatial information. In this study the integrand of Walin’s expression to yield transformation and formation maps is plotted and used to study the role of air–sea heat fluxes in the cycle of formation–destruction of the 18° ± 1°C layer in the North Atlantic.

Using remotely sensed sea surface temperatures and air–sea heat flux estimates based on both analyzed meteorological fields and ocean data–model syntheses for the 3-yr period from 2004 to 2006, the authors find that Eighteen Degree Water (EDW) is formed by air–sea heat fluxes in the western part of the subtropical gyre, just south of the Gulf Stream. The formation rate peaks in February when the EDW layer is thickened by convection owing to buoyancy loss. EDW is destroyed by air–sea heat fluxes from spring to summer over the entire subtropical gyre. In the annual mean there is net EDW formation in the west to the south of the Gulf Stream, and net destruction over the eastern part of the gyre. Results suggest that annual mean formation rates of EDW associated with air–sea fluxes are in the range from 3 to 5 Sv (Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1). Finally, error estimates are computed from sea surface temperature and heat flux data using an ensemble perturbation method. The transformation/formation patterns are found to be robust and errors mostly affect integral quantities.

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Cegeon J. Chan, R. Alan Plumb, and Ivana Cerovecki

Abstract

The authors investigate the dynamics of zonal jets in a semihemisphere zonally reentrant ocean model. The forcings imposed in the model are an idealized atmospheric wind stress and relaxation to a latitudinal temperature profile held constant in time. While there are striking similarities to the observed atmospheric annular modes, where the leading mode of variability is associated with the primary zonal jet’s meridional undulation, secondary (weaker) jets emerge and systematically migrate equatorward.

The model output suggests the following mechanism for the equatorward migration: while the eddy momentum fluxes sustain the jets, the eddy heat fluxes have a poleward bias causing an anomalous residual circulation with poleward (equatorward) flow on the poleward (equatorward) flanks. By conservation of mass, there must be a rising residual flow at the jet. From the thermodynamics equation, the greatest cooling occurs at the jet core, thus creating a tendency to reduce the baroclinicity on the poleward flank, while enhancing it on the equatorward flank. Consequently, the baroclinic zone shifts, perpetuating the jet migration.

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