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David Byrne
,
Lukas Papritz
,
Ivy Frenger
,
Matthias Münnich
, and
Nicolas Gruber

Abstract

Many aspects of the coupling between the ocean and atmosphere at the mesoscale (on the order of 20–100 km) remain unknown. While recent observations from the Southern Ocean revealed that circular fronts associated with oceanic mesoscale eddies leave a distinct imprint on the overlying wind, cloud coverage, and rain, the mechanisms responsible for explaining these atmospheric changes are not well established. Here the atmospheric response above mesoscale ocean eddies is investigated utilizing a newly developed coupled atmosphere–ocean regional model [Consortium for Small-Scale Modeling–Regional Ocean Modelling System (COSMO-ROMS)] configured at a horizontal resolution of ~10 km for the South Atlantic and run for a 3-month period during austral winter of 2004. The model-simulated changes in surface wind, cloud fraction, and rain above the oceanic eddies are very consistent with the relationships inferred from satellite observations for the same region and time. From diagnosing the model’s momentum balance, it is shown that the atmospheric imprint of the oceanic eddies are driven by the modification of vertical mixing in the atmospheric boundary layer, rather than secondary flows driven by horizontal pressure gradients. This is largely due to the very limited ability of the atmosphere to adjust its temperature over the time scale it takes for an air parcel to pass over these mesoscale oceanic features. This results in locally enhanced vertical gradients between the ocean surface and the overlying air and thus a rapid change in turbulent mixing in the atmospheric boundary layer and an associated change in the vertical momentum flux.

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Carolina O. Dufour
,
Adele K. Morrison
,
Stephen M. Griffies
,
Ivy Frenger
,
Hannah Zanowski
, and
Michael Winton

Abstract

The Weddell Sea polynya is a large opening in the open-ocean sea ice cover associated with intense deep convection in the ocean. A necessary condition to form and maintain a polynya is the presence of a strong subsurface heat reservoir. This study investigates the processes that control the stratification and hence the buildup of the subsurface heat reservoir in the Weddell Sea. To do so, a climate model run for 200 years under preindustrial forcing with two eddying resolutions in the ocean (0.25° CM2.5 and 0.10° CM2.6) is investigated. Over the course of the simulation, CM2.6 develops two polynyas in the Weddell Sea, while CM2.5 exhibits quasi-continuous deep convection but no polynyas, exemplifying that deep convection is not a sufficient condition for a polynya to occur. CM2.5 features a weaker subsurface heat reservoir than CM2.6 owing to weak stratification associated with episodes of gravitational instability and enhanced vertical mixing of heat, resulting in an erosion of the reservoir. In contrast, in CM2.6, the water column is more stably stratified, allowing the subsurface heat reservoir to build up. The enhanced stratification in CM2.6 arises from its refined horizontal grid spacing and resolution of topography, which allows, in particular, a better representation of the restratifying effect by transient mesoscale eddies and of the overflows of dense waters along the continental slope.

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Sjoerd Groeskamp
,
Casimir de Lavergne
,
Ryan Holmes
,
Veronica Tamsitt
,
Ivy Frenger
,
Christopher C. Chapman
,
Emily Newsom
, and
Geoffrey J. Stanley
Full access
Carolina O. Dufour
,
Stephen M. Griffies
,
Gregory F. de Souza
,
Ivy Frenger
,
Adele K. Morrison
,
Jaime B. Palter
,
Jorge L. Sarmiento
,
Eric D. Galbraith
,
John P. Dunne
,
Whit G. Anderson
, and
Richard D. Slater

Abstract

This study examines the role of processes transporting tracers across the Polar Front (PF) in the depth interval between the surface and major topographic sills, which this study refers to as the “PF core.” A preindustrial control simulation of an eddying climate model coupled to a biogeochemical model [GFDL Climate Model, version 2.6 (CM2.6)– simplified version of the Biogeochemistry with Light Iron Nutrients and Gas (miniBLING) 0.1° ocean model] is used to investigate the transport of heat, carbon, oxygen, and phosphate across the PF core, with a particular focus on the role of mesoscale eddies. The authors find that the total transport across the PF core results from a ubiquitous Ekman transport that drives the upwelled tracers to the north and a localized opposing eddy transport that induces tracer leakages to the south at major topographic obstacles. In the Ekman layer, the southward eddy transport only partially compensates the northward Ekman transport, while below the Ekman layer, the southward eddy transport dominates the total transport but remains much smaller in magnitude than the near-surface northward transport. Most of the southward branch of the total transport is achieved below the PF core, mainly through geostrophic currents. This study finds that the eddy-diffusive transport reinforces the southward eddy-advective transport for carbon and heat, and opposes it for oxygen and phosphate. Eddy-advective transport is likely to be the leading-order component of eddy-induced transport for all four tracers. However, eddy-diffusive transport may provide a significant contribution to the southward eddy heat transport due to strong along-isopycnal temperature gradients.

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Hyodae Seo
,
Larry W. O’Neill
,
Mark A. Bourassa
,
Arnaud Czaja
,
Kyla Drushka
,
James B. Edson
,
Baylor Fox-Kemper
,
Ivy Frenger
,
Sarah T. Gille
,
Benjamin P. Kirtman
,
Shoshiro Minobe
,
Angeline G. Pendergrass
,
Lionel Renault
,
Malcolm J. Roberts
,
Niklas Schneider
,
R. Justin Small
,
Ad Stoffelen
, and
Qing Wang

Abstract

Two decades of high-resolution satellite observations and climate modeling studies have indicated strong ocean–atmosphere coupled feedback mediated by ocean mesoscale processes, including semipermanent and meandrous SST fronts, mesoscale eddies, and filaments. The air–sea exchanges in latent heat, sensible heat, momentum, and carbon dioxide associated with this so-called mesoscale air–sea interaction are robust near the major western boundary currents, Southern Ocean fronts, and equatorial and coastal upwelling zones, but they are also ubiquitous over the global oceans wherever ocean mesoscale processes are active. Current theories, informed by rapidly advancing observational and modeling capabilities, have established the importance of mesoscale and frontal-scale air–sea interaction processes for understanding large-scale ocean circulation, biogeochemistry, and weather and climate variability. However, numerous challenges remain to accurately diagnose, observe, and simulate mesoscale air–sea interaction to quantify its impacts on large-scale processes. This article provides a comprehensive review of key aspects pertinent to mesoscale air–sea interaction, synthesizes current understanding with remaining gaps and uncertainties, and provides recommendations on theoretical, observational, and modeling strategies for future air–sea interaction research.

Significance Statement

Recent high-resolution satellite observations and climate models have shown a significant impact of coupled ocean–atmosphere interactions mediated by small-scale (mesoscale) ocean processes, including ocean eddies and fronts, on Earth’s climate. Ocean mesoscale-induced spatial temperature and current variability modulate the air–sea exchanges in heat, momentum, and mass (e.g., gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide), altering coupled boundary layer processes. Studies suggest that skillful simulations and predictions of ocean circulation, biogeochemistry, and weather events and climate variability depend on accurate representation of the eddy-mediated air–sea interaction. However, numerous challenges remain in accurately diagnosing, observing, and simulating mesoscale air–sea interaction to quantify its large-scale impacts. This article synthesizes the latest understanding of mesoscale air–sea interaction, identifies remaining gaps and uncertainties, and provides recommendations on strategies for future ocean–weather–climate research.

Open access