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J. N. Moum and J. D. Nash

Abstract

Highly resolved pressure measurements on the seafloor over New Jersey’s continental shelf reveal the pressure signature of nonlinear internal waves of depression as negative pressure perturbations. The sign of the perturbation is determined by the dominance of the internal hydrostatic pressure (p 0 Wh) due to isopycnal displacement over the contributions of external hydrostatic pressure (ρ 0gηH; ηH is surface displacement) and nonhydrostatic pressure (p 0 nh), each of opposite sign to p 0 Wh. This measurement represents experimental confirmation of the wave-induced pressure signal inferred in a previous study by Moum and Smyth.

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J. N. Moum and J. D. Nash

Abstract

Vaned, internally recording instruments that measure temperature fluctuations using FP07 thermistors, including fluctuations in the turbulence wavenumber band, have been built, tested, and deployed on a Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) mooring at 0°, 140°W. These were supplemented with motion packages that measure linear accelerations, from which an assessment of cable displacement and speed was made. Motions due to vortex-induced vibrations caused by interaction of the mean flow with the cable are small (rms < 0.15 cable diameters) and unlikely to affect estimates of the temperature variance dissipation rate χT. Surface wave–induced cable motions are significant, commonly resulting in vertical displacements of ±1 m and vertical speeds of ±0.5 m s−1 on 2–10-s periods. These motions produce an enhancement to the measurement of temperature gradient in the surface wave band herein that is equal to the product of the vertical cable speed and the vertical temperature gradient (i.e., dT/dtwcdT/dz). However, the temperature gradient spectrum is largely unaltered at higher and lower frequencies; in particular, there exists a clear scale separation between frequencies contaminated by surface waves and the turbulence subrange. The effect of cable motions on spectral estimates of χT is evaluated and determined to result in acceptably small uncertainties (< a factor of two 95% of the time, based on 60-s averages). Time series of χT and the inferred turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate ε are consistent with historical data from the same equatorial location.

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J. N. Moum and J. D. Nash

Abstract

Recent turbulence measurements over a small bank on the continental shelf off Oregon reveal a previously undetected site for intense mixing of the coastal ocean. The flow is hydraulically controlled and turbulence diffusivities over the bank are more than 100 times greater than estimates made on the shelf away from topography. The total drag exerted by the bank on the flow field is a combination of bottom friction plus form drag (analogous to mountain drag) and is comparable to the Coriolis force. This drag is sufficient to decelerate the flow over the bank in a matter of hours.

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David J. Nash and George C. D. Adamson

Recent years have seen major advances in the understanding of the historical climatology of tropical and subtropical areas, primarily through the analysis of documentary materials such as weather diaries, newspapers, personal correspondence, government records, and ship logs. This paper presents a critical review of these advances, drawing upon examples from across the tropics and subtropics. The authors focus in particular on the ways in which documentary evidence has been used to improve our understanding of 1) historical temperature variability, 2) fluctuations in annual and seasonal precipitation, and 3) the occurrence, severity, and impact of tropical cyclones. They also discuss the ways in which documentary evidence has been combined with information from natural archives to reconstruct historical El Niño and La Niña episodes. The article concludes with some suggestions for future research. These include the exploration of historical documents from hitherto under-researched regions and the application of new methodological approaches highlighted as part of the review.

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J. N. Moum, J. D. Nash, and W. D. Smyth

Abstract

Extended measurements of temperature fluctuations that include the turbulence wavenumber band have now been made using rapidly sampled fast thermistors at multiple depths above the core of the Equatorial Undercurrent on the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) mooring at 0°, 140°W. These measurements include the signature of narrowband oscillations as well as turbulence, from which the temperature variance dissipation rate χT and the turbulence energy dissipation rate ϵχ are estimated.

The narrowband oscillations are characterized by the following:

  • groupiness—packets consist of O(10) oscillations;
  • spectral peaks of up to two orders of magnitude above background;
  • a clear day–night cycle with more intensive activity at night;
  • enhanced mixing rates;
  • frequencies of 1–2 × 10−3 Hz, close to both the local buoyancy and shear frequencies, N/2π and S/2π, which vary slowly in time;
  • high vertical coherence over at least 30-m scales; and
  • abrupt vertical phase change (π/2 over <20 m).
The abrupt vertical phase change is consistent with instabilities formed in stratified shear flows. Linear stability analysis applied to measured velocity and density profiles leads to predicted frequencies that match those of the observed oscillations. This correspondence suggests that the observed oscillation frequencies are set by the phase speed and wavelength of instabilities as opposed to the Doppler shifting of internal gravity waves with intrinsic frequency set by the local stratification N.

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W. D. Smyth, J. D. Nash, and J. N. Moum

Abstract

Direct numerical simulations are used to compare turbulent diffusivities of heat and salt during the growth and collapse of Kelvin–Helmholtz billows. The ratio of diffusivities is obtained as a function of buoyancy Reynolds number Reb and of the density ratio Rρ (the ratio of the contributions of heat and salt to the density stratification). The diffusivity ratio is generally less than unity (heat is mixed more effectively than salt), but it approaches unity with increasing Reb and also with increasing Rρ. Instantaneous diffusivity ratios near unity are achieved during the most turbulent phase of the event even when Reb is small; much of the Reb dependence results from the fact that, at higher Reb, the diffusivity ratio remains close to unity for a longer time after the turbulence decays. An explanation for this is proposed in terms of the Batchelor scaling for scalar fields. Results are interpreted in terms of the dynamics of turbulent Kelvin–Helmholtz billows, and are compared in detail with previous studies of differential diffusion in numerical, laboratory, and observational contexts. The overall picture suggests that the diffusivities become approximately equal when Reb exceeds O(102). The effect of Rρ is significant only when Reb is less than this value.

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W. D. Smyth, J. N. Moum, and J. D. Nash

Abstract

Narrowband oscillations observed in the upper equatorial Pacific are interpreted in terms of a random ensemble of shear instability events. Linear perturbation analysis is applied to hourly averaged profiles of velocity and density over a 54-day interval, yielding a total of 337 unstable modes. Composite profiles of mean states and eigenfunctions surrounding the critical levels suggest that the standard hyperbolic tangent model of Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) instability is a reasonable approximation, but the symmetry of the composite perturbation is broken by the stratification and vorticity gradient of the underlying equatorial undercurrent. Unstable modes are found to occupy a range of frequencies with a peak near 1.4 mHz, consistent with the frequency content of the observed oscillations.

A probabilistic theory of random instabilities predicts this peak frequency closely. An order of magnitude estimate suggests that the peak frequency is of order N, in accord with the observations. This results not from gravity wave physics but from the balance of shear and stratification that governs shear instability in geophysical flows. More generally, it is concluded that oscillatory signals with frequency bounded by N can result from a process that has nothing to do with gravity waves.

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E. L. Shroyer, J. N. Moum, and J. D. Nash

Abstract

Observations off the New Jersey coast document the shoaling of three groups of nonlinear internal waves of depression over 35 km across the shelf. Each wave group experienced changing background conditions along its shoreward transit. Despite different wave environments, a clear pattern emerges. Nearly symmetric waves propagating into shallow water develop an asymmetric shape; in the wave reference frame, the leading edge accelerates causing the front face to broaden while the trailing face remains steep. This trend continues until the front edge and face of the leading depression wave become unidentifiable and a near-bottom elevation wave emerges, formed from the trailing face of the initial depression wave and the leading face of the following wave. The transition from depression to elevation waves is diagnosed by the integrated wave vorticity, which changes sign as the wave’s polarity changes sign. This transition is predicted by the sign change of the coefficient of the nonlinear term in the KdV equation, when evaluated using observed profiles of stratification and velocity.

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J. N. Moum, D. R. Caldwell, J. D. Nash, and G. D. Gunderson

Abstract

Observations of mixing over the continental slope using a towed body reveal a great lateral extent (several kilometers) of continuously turbulent fluid within a few hundred meters of the boundary at depth 1600 m. The largest turbulent dissipation rates were observed over a 5 km horizontal region near a slope critical to the M 2 internal tide. Over a submarine landslide perpendicular to the continental slope, enhanced mixing extended at least 600 m above the boundary, increasing toward the bottom. The resulting vertical divergence of the heat flux near the bottom implies that fluid there must be replenished.

Intermediate nepheloid layers detected optically contained fluid with θS properties distinct from their surroundings. It is suggested that intermediate nepheloid layers are interior signitures of the boundary layer detachment required by the near-bottom flux divergance.

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J. N. Moum, J. M. Klymak, J. D. Nash, A. Perlin, and W. D. Smyth

Abstract

Winter stratification on Oregon’s continental shelf often produces a near-bottom layer of dense fluid that acts as an internal waveguide upon which nonlinear internal waves propagate. Shipboard profiling and bottom lander observations capture disturbances that exhibit properties of internal solitary waves, bores, and gravity currents. Wavelike pulses are highly turbulent (instantaneous bed stresses are 1 N m−2), resuspending bottom sediments into the water column and raising them 30+ m above the seafloor. The wave cross-shelf transport of fluid often counters the time-averaged Ekman transport in the bottom boundary layer. In the nonlinear internal waves that were observed, the kinetic energy is roughly equal to the available potential energy and is O(0.1) megajoules per meter of coastline. The energy transported by these waves includes a nonlinear advection term 〈uE〉 that is negligible in linear internal waves. Unlike linear internal waves, the pressure–velocity energy flux 〈up〉 includes important contributions from nonhydrostatic effects and surface displacement. It is found that, statistically, 〈uE〉 ≃ 2〈up〉. Vertical profiles through these waves of elevation indicate that up(z) is more important in transporting energy near the seafloor while uE(z) dominates farther from the bottom. With the wave speed c estimated from weakly nonlinear wave theory, it is verified experimentally that the total energy transported by the waves is 〈up〉 + 〈uE〉 ≃ cE〉. The high but intermittent energy flux by the waves is, in an averaged sense, O(100) watts per meter of coastline. This is similar to independent estimates of the shoreward energy flux in the semidiurnal internal tide at the shelf break.

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