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James R. Ledwell

Abstract

McDougall and Ferrari have estimated the global deep upward diapycnal flow in the boundary layer overlying continental slopes that must balance both downward diapycnal flow in the deep interior and the formation of bottom water around Antarctica. The decrease of perimeter of isopycnal surfaces with depth and the observed decay with height above bottom of turbulent dissipation in the deep ocean play a key role in their estimate. They argue that because the perimeter of seamounts increases with depth, the net effect of mixing around seamounts is to produce net downward diapycnal flow. While this is true along much of a seamount, it is shown here that diapycnal flow of the densest water around the seamount is upward, with buoyancy being transferred from water just above. The same is true for midocean ridges, whose perimeter is constant with depth. It is argued that mixing around seamounts and especially midocean ridges contributes positively to the global deep overturning circulation, reducing the amount of turbulence demanded over the continental slopes to balance the buoyancy budget for the bottom and deep water.

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Miles A. Sundermeyer, James R. Ledwell, Neil S. Oakey, and Blair J. W. Greenan

Abstract

Evidence is presented that lateral dispersion on scales of 1–10 km in the stratified waters of the continental shelf may be significantly enhanced by stirring by small-scale geostrophic motions caused by patches of mixed fluid adjusting in the aftermath of diapycnal mixing events. Dye-release experiments conducted during the recent Coastal Mixing and Optics (CMO) experiment provide estimates of diapycnal and lateral dispersion. Microstructure observations made during these experiments showed patchy turbulence on vertical scales of 1–10 m and horizontal scales of a few hundred meters to a few kilometers. Momentum scaling and a simple random walk formulation were used to estimate the effective lateral dispersion caused by motions resulting from lateral adjustment following episodic mixing events. It is predicted that lateral dispersion is largest when the scale of mixed patches is on the order of the internal Rossby radius of deformation, which seems to have been the case for CMO. For parameter values relevant to CMO, lower-bound estimates of the effective lateral diffusivity by this mechanism ranged from 0.1 to 1 m2 s−1. Revised estimates after accounting for the possibility of long-lived motions were an order of magnitude larger and ranged from 1 to 10 m2 s−1. The predicted dispersion is large enough to explain the observed lateral dispersion in all four CMO dye-release experiments examined.

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Emma J. D. Boland, Emily Shuckburgh, Peter H. Haynes, James R. Ledwell, Marie-José Messias, and Andrew J. Watson

Abstract

The use of a measure to diagnose submesoscale isopycnal diffusivity by determining the best match between observations of a tracer and simulations with varying small-scale diffusivities is tested. Specifically, the robustness of a “roughness” measure to discriminate between tracer fields experiencing different submesoscale isopycnal diffusivities and advected by scaled altimetric velocity fields is investigated. This measure is used to compare numerical simulations of the tracer released at a depth of about 1.5 km in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean during the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES) field campaign with observations of the tracer taken on DIMES cruises. The authors find that simulations with an isopycnal diffusivity of ~20 m2 s−1 best match observations in the Pacific sector of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), rising to ~20–50 m2 s−1 through Drake Passage, representing submesoscale processes and any mesoscale processes unresolved by the advecting altimetry fields. The roughness measure is demonstrated to be a statistically robust way to estimate a small-scale diffusivity when measurements are relatively sparse in space and time, although it does not work if there are too few measurements overall. The planning of tracer measurements during a cruise in order to maximize the robustness of the roughness measure is also considered. It is found that the robustness is increased if the spatial resolution of tracer measurements is increased with the time since tracer release.

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Ross Tulloch, Raffaele Ferrari, Oliver Jahn, Andreas Klocker, Joseph LaCasce, James R. Ledwell, John Marshall, Marie-Jose Messias, Kevin Speer, and Andrew Watson

Abstract

The first direct estimate of the rate at which geostrophic turbulence mixes tracers across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is presented. The estimate is computed from the spreading of a tracer released upstream of Drake Passage as part of the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES). The meridional eddy diffusivity, a measure of the rate at which the area of the tracer spreads along an isopycnal across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, is 710 ± 260 m2 s−1 at 1500-m depth. The estimate is based on an extrapolation of the tracer-based diffusivity using output from numerical tracers released in a one-twentieth of a degree model simulation of the circulation and turbulence in the Drake Passage region. The model is shown to reproduce the observed spreading rate of the DIMES tracer and suggests that the meridional eddy diffusivity is weak in the upper kilometer of the water column with values below 500 m2 s−1 and peaks at the steering level, near 2 km, where the eddy phase speed is equal to the mean flow speed. These vertical variations are not captured by ocean models presently used for climate studies, but they significantly affect the ventilation of different water masses.

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Miles A. Sundermeyer, Daniel A. Birch, James R. Ledwell, Murray D. Levine, Stephen D. Pierce, and Brandy T. Kuebel Cervantes

Abstract

Results are presented from two dye release experiments conducted in the seasonal thermocline of the Sargasso Sea, one in a region of low horizontal strain rate (~10−6 s−1), the second in a region of intermediate horizontal strain rate (~10−5 s−1). Both experiments lasted ~6 days, covering spatial scales of 1–10 and 1–50 km for the low and intermediate strain rate regimes, respectively. Diapycnal diffusivities estimated from the two experiments were κ z = (2–5) × 10−6 m2 s−1, while isopycnal diffusivities were κ H = (0.2–3) m2 s−1, with the range in κ H being less a reflection of site-to-site variability, and more due to uncertainties in the background strain rate acting on the patch combined with uncertain time dependence. The Site I (low strain) experiment exhibited minimal stretching, elongating to approximately 10 km over 6 days while maintaining a width of ~5 km, and with a notable vertical tilt in the meridional direction. By contrast, the Site II (intermediate strain) experiment exhibited significant stretching, elongating to more than 50 km in length and advecting more than 150 km while still maintaining a width of order 3–5 km. Early surveys from both experiments showed patchy distributions indicative of small-scale stirring at scales of order a few hundred meters. Later surveys show relatively smooth, coherent distributions with only occasional patchiness, suggestive of a diffusive rather than stirring process at the scales of the now larger patches. Together the two experiments provide important clues as to the rates and underlying processes driving diapycnal and isopycnal mixing at these scales.

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Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Miles A. Sundermeyer, Eric Kunze, Eric D’Asaro, Gualtiero Badin, Daniel Birch, Anne-Marie E. G. Brunner-Suzuki, Jörn Callies, Brandy T. Kuebel Cervantes, Mariona Claret, Brian Concannon, Jeffrey Early, Raffaele Ferrari, Louis Goodman, Ramsey R. Harcourt, Jody M. Klymak, Craig M. Lee, M.-Pascale Lelong, Murray D. Levine, Ren-Chieh Lien, Amala Mahadevan, James C. McWilliams, M. Jeroen Molemaker, Sonaljit Mukherjee, Jonathan D. Nash, Tamay Özgökmen, Stephen D. Pierce, Sanjiv Ramachandran, Roger M. Samelson, Thomas B. Sanford, R. Kipp Shearman, Eric D. Skyllingstad, K. Shafer Smith, Amit Tandon, John R. Taylor, Eugene A. Terray, Leif N. Thomas, and James R. Ledwell

Abstract

Lateral stirring is a basic oceanographic phenomenon affecting the distribution of physical, chemical, and biological fields. Eddy stirring at scales on the order of 100 km (the mesoscale) is fairly well understood and explicitly represented in modern eddy-resolving numerical models of global ocean circulation. The same cannot be said for smaller-scale stirring processes. Here, the authors describe a major oceanographic field experiment aimed at observing and understanding the processes responsible for stirring at scales of 0.1–10 km. Stirring processes of varying intensity were studied in the Sargasso Sea eddy field approximately 250 km southeast of Cape Hatteras. Lateral variability of water-mass properties, the distribution of microscale turbulence, and the evolution of several patches of inert dye were studied with an array of shipboard, autonomous, and airborne instruments. Observations were made at two sites, characterized by weak and moderate background mesoscale straining, to contrast different regimes of lateral stirring. Analyses to date suggest that, in both cases, the lateral dispersion of natural and deliberately released tracers was O(1) m2 s–1 as found elsewhere, which is faster than might be expected from traditional shear dispersion by persistent mesoscale flow and linear internal waves. These findings point to the possible importance of kilometer-scale stirring by submesoscale eddies and nonlinear internal-wave processes or the need to modify the traditional shear-dispersion paradigm to include higher-order effects. A unique aspect of the Scalable Lateral Mixing and Coherent Turbulence (LatMix) field experiment is the combination of direct measurements of dye dispersion with the concurrent multiscale hydrographic and turbulence observations, enabling evaluation of the underlying mechanisms responsible for the observed dispersion at a new level.

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