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James B. Girton and Thomas B. Sanford

Abstract

Bulk properties of the Denmark Strait overflow (DSO) plume observed in velocity and hydrography surveys undertaken in 1997 and 1998 are described. Despite the presence of considerable short-term variability, it is found that the pathway and evolution of the plume density anomaly are remarkably steady. Bottom stress measurements show that the pathway of the plume core matches well with a rate of descent controlled by friction. The estimated entrainment rate diagnosed from the rate of plume dilution with distance shows a marked increase in entrainment at approximately 125 km from the sill, leading to a net dilution consistent with previous reports of a doubling of overflow transport measured by current meter arrays. The entrainment rate increase is likely related to the increased topographic slopes in the region, compounded by a decrease in interface stratification as the plume is diluted and enters a denser background.

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Byron F. Kilbourne and James B. Girton

Abstract

Wind-forced internal waves close to the inertial frequency are ubiquitous throughout the world’s oceans, but observational constraints on their global energetics and impact on subsurface mixing remain scarce. This study reports on velocity measurements from three Electromagnetic Autonomous Profiling Explorers (EM-APEX) deployed in February 2009. These floats observed downward-propagating near-inertial internal waves near the Subantarctic and Polar Fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. These waves were episodic and enhanced at middepth between 500 and 1000 m. Depth-integrated kinetic energy varied between 1 and 7 kJ m−2 and averaged 1.6 kJ m−2 with typical group velocities of 40 m day−1, implying an average energy flux of 3 mW m−2 at the mixed layer base decreasing to approximately 25% of that value at 1500 m. Modeled currents forced by reanalysis winds along each float track agree with observed surface currents from EM-APEX, provided that mixed layer depth is restricted to the layer of weakest observable stratification (interpreted as the maximum depth that can remain mixed over an inertial period given the continual balance between mixing and restratification). This model estimates an average wind power of 3 mW m−2. Shipboard wind and current observations during a strong storm show an integrated wind work of 3.5 kJ m−2, comparable to the vertically integrated kinetic energy over the following month. Model wind work estimates are considerably less, likely because of the mixed layer depth used. A model with varying stratification in response to the wind provides a better match to the observations, emphasizing the importance of stratification within the mixed layer in amplifying wind energy input.

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Thomas B. Sanford, James F. Price, and James B. Girton

Abstract

Three autonomous profiling Electromagnetic Autonomous Profiling Explorer (EM-APEX) floats were air deployed one day in advance of the passage of Hurricane Frances (2004) as part of the Coupled Boundary Layer Air–Sea Transfer (CBLAST)-High field experiment. The floats were deliberately deployed at locations on the hurricane track, 55 km to the right of the track, and 110 km to the right of the track. These floats provided profile measurements between 30 and 200 m of in situ temperature, salinity, and horizontal velocity every half hour during the hurricane passage and for several weeks afterward. Some aspects of the observed response were similar at the three locations—the dominance of near-inertial horizontal currents and the phase of these currents—whereas other aspects were different. The largest-amplitude inertial currents were observed at the 55-km site, where SST cooled the most, by about 2.2°C, as the surface mixed layer deepened by about 80 m. Based on the time–depth evolution of the Richardson number and comparisons with a numerical ocean model, it is concluded that SST cooled primarily because of shear-induced vertical mixing that served to bring deeper, cooler water into the surface layer. Surface gravity waves, estimated from the observed high-frequency velocity, reached an estimated 12-m significant wave height at the 55-km site. Along the track, there was lesser amplitude inertial motion and SST cooling, only about 1.2°C, though there was greater upwelling, about 25-m amplitude, and inertial pumping, also about 25-m amplitude. Previously reported numerical simulations of the upper-ocean response are in reasonable agreement with these EM-APEX observations provided that a high wind speed–saturated drag coefficient is used to estimate the wind stress. A direct inference of the drag coefficient CD is drawn from the momentum budget. For wind speeds of 32–47 m s−1, CD ~ 1.4 × 10−3.

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Eric Kunze, John B. Mickett, and James B. Girton

Abstract

Destratification and restratification of a ~50-m-thick surface boundary layer in the North Pacific Subtropical Front are examined during 24–31 March 2017 in the wake of a storm using a ~5-km array of 23 chi-augmented EM-APEX profiling floats (u, υ, T, S, χ T), as well as towyo and ADCP ship surveys, shipboard air-sea surface fluxes, and parameterized shortwave penetrative radiation. During the first four days, nocturnal destabilizing buoyancy fluxes mixed the surface layer over almost its full depth every night followed by restratification to N ~ 2 × 10−3 rad s−1 during daylight. Starting on 28 March, nocturnal destabilizing buoyancy fluxes weakened because weakening winds reduced latent heat flux. Shallow mixing and stratified transition layers formed above ~20-m depth. A remnant layer in the lower part of the surface layer was insulated from destabilizing surface forcing. Penetrative radiation, turbulent buoyancy fluxes, and horizontal buoyancy advection all contribute to its restratification, closing the budget to within measurement uncertainties. Buoyancy advective restratification (slumping) plays a minor role. Before 28 March, measured advective restratification (uzbx+υzby)dt is confined to daytime; is often destratifying; and is much stronger than predictions of geostrophic adjustment, mixed-layer eddy instability, and Ekman buoyancy flux because of storm-forced inertial shear. Starting on 28 March, while small, the subinertial envelope of measured buoyancy advective restratification in the remnant layer proceeds as predicted by mixed-layer eddy parameterizations.

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Brian S. Chinn, James B. Girton, and Matthew H. Alford

Abstract

The most comprehensive studies of the spatial and temporal scales of diffusivity rely on internal wave parameterizations that require knowledge of finescale shear and strain. Studies lacking either shear or strain measurements have to assume a constant ratio between shear and strain (R ω). Data from 14 moorings collected during five field programs are examined to determine the spatial and temporal patterns in R ω and the influence of these patterns on parameterized diffusivity. Time-mean R ω ranges from 1 to 10, with changes of order 10 observed over a broad range of scales. Temporal variability in R ω is observed at daily, weekly, and monthly scales. Observed changes in R ω could produce a 2–3 times change in parameterized diffusivity. Vertical profiles of R ω, E shear, and E strain (shear or strain variance relative to Garret–Munk) reveal that both local topographic properties and wind variability impact the internal wave field. Time series of R ω from each mooring have strong correlations to either shear or strain, often only at a specific range of vertical wavenumbers. Sites fall into two categories, in which R ω variability is dominated by either shear or strain. Linear fits to the dominant property (i.e., shear or strain) can be used to estimate a time series of R ω that has an RMS error that is 30% less than the RMS error from assuming R ω = 3. Shear and strain level vary in concert, as predicted by the Garret–Munk model, at high E shear values. However, at E shear < 5, strain variations are 3 times weaker than shear.

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Jim Thomson, James B. Girton, Rajesh Jha, and Andrew Trapani

Abstract

Methods for measuring waves and winds from a Wave Glider autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) are described and evaluated. The wave method utilizes the frequency spectra of orbital velocities measured by GPS, and the wind stress method utilizes the frequency spectra of turbulent wind fluctuations measured by an ultrasonic anemometer. Both methods evaluate contaminations from vehicle motion. The methods were evaluated with 68 days of data over a full range of open ocean conditions, in which wave heights varied from 1 to 8 m and wind speeds varied from 1 to 17 m s−1. Reference data were collected using additional sensors on board the vehicle. For the waves method, several additional datasets are included that use independently moored Datawell Waverider buoys as reference data. Bulk wave parameters are determined within 5% error with biases of less than 5%. Wind stress is determined within 4% error with 1% bias. Wave directional spectra also compare well, although the Wave Glider results have more spread at low frequencies.

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James B. Girton, Lawrence J. Pratt, David A. Sutherland, and James F. Price

Abstract

The overflow of dense water from the Nordic Seas through the Faroe Bank Channel (FBC) has attributes suggesting hydraulic control—primarily an asymmetry across the sill reminiscent of flow over a dam. However, this aspect has never been confirmed by any quantitative measure, nor is the position of the control section known. This paper presents a comparison of several different techniques for assessing the hydraulic criticality of oceanic overflows applied to data from a set of velocity and hydrographic sections across the FBC. These include 1) the cross-stream variation in the local Froude number, including a modified form that accounts for stratification and vertical shear, 2) rotating hydraulic solutions using a constant potential vorticity layer in a channel of parabolic cross section, and 3) direct computation of shallow water wave speeds from the observed overflow structure. Though differences exist, the three methods give similar answers, suggesting that the FBC is indeed controlled, with a critical section located 20–90 km downstream of the sill crest. Evidence of an upstream control with respect to a potential vorticity wave is also presented. The implications of these results for hydraulic predictions of overflow transport and variability are discussed.

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Eric Kunze, Chris MacKay, Erika E. McPhee-Shaw, Katie Morrice, James B. Girton, and Samantha R. Terker

Abstract

Microstructure measurements along the axes of Monterey and Soquel Submarine Canyons reveal 200–300-m-thick well-stratified turbulent near-bottom layers with average turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates 〈ε〉 = 4 × 10−8 W kg−1 and eddy diffusivities K = 16 × 10−4 m2 s−1 (assuming mixing efficiency γ = 0.2) to at least thalweg depths of 1200 m. Turbulent dissipation rates are an order of magnitude lower in overlying waters, whereas buoyancy frequencies are only 25% higher. Well-mixed bottom boundary layer thicknesses hN are an order of magnitude thinner than the stratified turbulent layer (hNhε). Because well-stratified turbulent layers are commonly observed above slopes, arguments that mixing efficiency should be reduced on sloping boundaries do not hold in cases of energetic internal-wave generation or interaction with topography. An advective–diffusive balance is used to infer velocities and transports, predicting horizontal upslope flows of 10–50 m day−1. Extrapolating this estimate globally suggests that canyon turbulence may contribute 2–3 times as much diapycnal transport to the World Ocean as interior mixing. The upcanyon turbulence-driven transports are not uniform, and the resulting upslope convergences will drive exchange between the turbulent layer and more quiescent interior. Predicted density surfaces of detrainment and entrainment are consistent with observed isopycnals of intermediate nepheloid and clear layers. These data demonstrate that turbulent mixing dynamics on sloping topography are fundamentally 2D or 3D in the ocean, so they cannot be accurately described by 1D models.

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Jesse M. Cusack, Alberto C. Naveira Garabato, David A. Smeed, and James B. Girton

Abstract

Lee waves are thought to play a prominent role in Southern Ocean dynamics, facilitating a transfer of energy from the jets of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to microscale, turbulent motions important in water mass transformations. Two EM-APEX profiling floats deployed in the Drake Passage during the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment (DIMES) independently measured a 120 ± 20-m vertical amplitude lee wave over the Shackleton Fracture Zone. A model for steady EM-APEX motion is developed to calculate absolute vertical water velocity, augmenting the horizontal velocity measurements made by the floats. The wave exhibits fluctuations in all three velocity components of over 15 cm s−1 and an intrinsic frequency close to the local buoyancy frequency. The wave is observed to transport energy and horizontal momentum vertically at respective peak rates of 1.3 ± 0.2 W m−2 and 8 ± 1 N m−2. The rate of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation is estimated using both Thorpe scales and a method that isolates high-frequency vertical kinetic energy and is found to be enhanced within the wave to values of order 10−7 W kg−1. The observed vertical flux of energy is significantly larger than expected from idealized numerical simulations and also larger than observed depth-integrated dissipation rates. These results provide the first unambiguous observation of a lee wave in the Southern Ocean with simultaneous measurements of its energetics and dynamics.

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Wilken-Jon von Appen, Dana Mastropole, Robert S. Pickart, HéÐinn Valdimarsson, Steingrímur Jónsson, and James B. Girton

Abstract

Time series data from a mooring in the center of Denmark Strait and a collection of shipboard hydrographic sections occupied across the sill are used to elucidate the mesoscale variability of the dense overflow water in the strait. Two dominant, reoccurring features are identified that are referred to as a bolus and a pulse. A bolus is a large, weakly stratified lens of overflow water associated with cyclonic rotation and a modest increase in along-stream speed of 0.1 m s−1. When a bolus passes through the strait the interface height of the overflow layer increases by 60 m, and the bottom temperature decreases by 0.4°C. By contrast, a pulse is characterized by anticyclonic rotation, a strong increase in along-stream speed of >0.25 m s−1, a decrease in interface height of 90 m, and no significant bottom temperature signal. It is estimated that, on average, boluses (pulses) pass through the strait every 3.4 (5.4) days with no seasonal signal to their frequency. Both features have the strongest along-stream signal in the overflow layer, while the strongest cross-stream velocities occur above the Denmark Strait overflow water (DSOW). In this sense neither feature can be characterized as a simple propagating eddy. Their dynamics appear to be similar to that ascribed to the mesoscale variability observed downstream in the deep western boundary current. Strong correlation of bottom temperatures between the mooring in Denmark Strait and a downstream array, together with a match in the frequency of occurrence of features at both locations, suggests a causal relationship between the mesoscale variability at the sill and that farther downstream.

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