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Shota Katsura
and
Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Seasonality and formation of barrier layers (BLs) and associated temperature inversions (TIs) in the eastern tropical North Pacific Ocean were investigated using raw and gridded Argo profiling float data, satellite data, and various sea surface flux data. BLs were observed frequently in boreal summer and autumn along the sea surface salinity (SSS) front south of the eastern Pacific fresh pool. TIs were found within the gap between the western and eastern Pacific warm pools in autumn when BLs were thickest. A mixed layer salinity budget was constructed to determine the formation mechanism responsible for BLs with TIs. This budget revealed that Ekman advection works to both freshen and cool the eastern tropical North Pacific in autumn and contributes to the formation of the thickest BLs with the warmest TIs through the tilting of the SSS front. Precipitation is a secondary contributor to BL formation in autumn. The BLs are also prevalent during summer but are thinner, are without associated TIs, and are primarily formed through precipitation. The largest rainfall associated with the intertropical convergence zone mostly occurred north of the band of thickest BLs in both summer and autumn. The geostrophic advection of salinity did not coherently contribute to the formation of BLs or TIs. The idea that Ekman advection contributes most to the formation of the thickest BLs with warm TIs was further corroborated because the horizontal salinity gradient was the dominant contributor to the density gradient and so is favorable for BL and TI formation.

Free access
Xi Lu
,
Shijian Hu
, and
Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Multidecadal variability of the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) is crucial for the Indo-Pacific and global climate due to significant interbasin exchanges of heat and freshwater. Previous studies suggest that both wind and buoyancy forcing may drive ITF variability, but the role of precipitation and salinity effect in the variability of ITF on multidecadal time scales remains largely unexplored. Here, we investigate the multidecadal changes and long-term trend of the ITF transport during the past six decades, with a focus on the role of precipitation and salinity effect. The diverse datasets consistently indicate a substantial upward trend in the halosteric component of geostrophic transport of ITF in the outflow region at 114°E during the six decades. We find that the meridional differences of the salinity trend in the outflow region explain the increasing trend of the halosteric component of ITF transport. On a larger scale, the tropical western Pacific Ocean and Indonesian seas have experienced significant freshening, which has strengthened the Indo-Pacific pressure gradient and thus enhanced the ITF. In contrast, the equatorial trade wind in the western Pacific Ocean has weakened over recent decades, implying that changes in wind forcing have contributed to weakening the ITF. The combined effect of strengthened halosteric and weakened thermosteric components has resulted in a weak strengthening for the total ITF with large uncertainties. Although both the thermosteric and halosteric components are associated with natural climate modes, our results suggest that the importance of salinity effect is likely increasing given the enhanced water cycle under global warming.

Open access
Doron Nof
,
Thierry Pichevin
, and
Janet Sprintall

Abstract

The outflow from the Indonesian seas empties approximately 5–7 Sv of surface warm (and low salinity) Indonesian Throughflow water into the southern Indian Ocean (at roughly 12°S). Using a nonlinear 1½-layer model with a simple geometry consisting of a point source (of anomalous water) situated along a meridional wall on a β plane, the spreading of these waters is examined. An analytical solution is constructed with the aid of the “slowly varying” approach, and process-oriented numerical simulations are performed.

It is found that, immediately after emptying into the ocean, the outflow splits into two branches. One branch carries approximately 13% of the source mass flux and forms a chain of high amplitude anticyclonic eddies (lenses) immediately to the west of the source. These eddies drift westward and penetrate into the interior of the Indian Ocean. The second branch carries the remaining 87% of the mass flux via a coastal southward flowing current. Ultimately, this second branch separates from the coast and turns westward. (A detailed examination of this second branch separation is, nevertheless, beyond the scope of this study.)

It is suggested that the eddies recently observed to the west of the Island of Timor are a result of the above eddy generation process, which is not related to the classical eddy generation process associated with instabilities (i.e., the breakdown of a known steady solution). It is also suggested that this new nonlinear process explains why some of the Indonesian Throughflow water forms the source of the southward flowing coastal Leeuwin Current.

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Shenfu Dong
,
Sarah T. Gille
, and
Janet Sprintall

Abstract

The mixed layer heat balance in the Southern Ocean is examined by combining remotely sensed measurements and in situ observations from 1 June 2002 to 31 May 2006, coinciding with the period during which Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (EOS) (AMSR-E) sea surface temperature measurements are available. Temperature/salinity profiles from Argo floats are used to derive the mixed layer depth. All terms in the heat budget are estimated directly from available data. The domain-averaged terms of oceanic heat advection, entrainment, diffusion, and air–sea flux are largely consistent with the evolution of the mixed layer temperature. The mixed layer temperature undergoes a strong seasonal cycle, which is largely attributed to the air–sea heat fluxes. Entrainment plays a secondary role. Oceanic advection also experiences a seasonal cycle, although it is relatively weak. Most of the seasonal variations in the advection term come from the Ekman advection, in contrast with western boundary current regions where geostrophic advection controls the total advection. Substantial imbalances exist in the regional heat budgets, especially near the northern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The biggest contributor to the surface heat budget error is thought to be the air–sea heat fluxes, because only limited Southern Hemisphere data are available for the reanalysis products, and hence these fluxes have large uncertainties. In particular, the lack of in situ measurements during winter is of fundamental concern. Sensitivity tests suggest that a proper representation of the mixed layer depth is important to close the budget. Salinity influences the stratification in the Southern Ocean; temperature alone provides an imperfect estimate of mixed layer depth and, because of this, also an imperfect estimate of the temperature of water entrained into the mixed layer from below.

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Shenfu Dong
,
Janet Sprintall
, and
Sarah T. Gille

Abstract

The location of the Southern Ocean polar front (PF) is mapped from the first 3 yr of remotely sensed Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for the Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) sea surface temperature (SST) measurements. In agreement with previous studies, the mean path of the Antarctic PF and its standard deviation are strongly influenced by bottom topography. However, the mean PF path diverges slightly from previous studies in several regions where there is high mesoscale variability. Although the SST and SST gradient at the PF show spatially coherent seasonal variations, with the highest temperature and the lowest temperature gradient during summer, the seasonal variations in the location of the PF are not spatially coherent. The temporal mean SST at the PF corresponds well to the mean PF path: the temperature is high in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean sections and is low in the Pacific Ocean section where the PF has a more southerly position. The relationship of the wind field with the Antarctic PF location and proxies for the zonal and meridional PF transports are examined statistically. Coherence analysis suggests that the zonal wind stress accelerates the zonal transport of the PF. The analysis presented herein also suggests that the meridional shifts of the Antarctic PF path correspond to the meridional shifts of the wind field.

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Shikha Singh
,
Janet Sprintall
,
Antonietta Capotondi
, and
Regina Rodrigues
Open access
Kyla Drushka
,
Janet Sprintall
,
Sarah T. Gille
, and
Susan Wijffels

Abstract

The boreal winter response of the ocean mixed layer to the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) in the Indo-Pacific region is determined using in situ observations from the Argo profiling float dataset. Composite averages over numerous events reveal that the MJO forces systematic variations in mixed layer depth and temperature throughout the domain. Strong MJO mixed layer depth anomalies (>15 m peak to peak) are observed in the central Indian Ocean and in the far western Pacific Ocean. The strongest mixed layer temperature variations (>0.6°C peak to peak) are found in the central Indian Ocean and in the region between northwest Australia and Java. A heat budget analysis is used to evaluate which processes are responsible for mixed layer temperature variations at MJO time scales. Though uncertainties in the heat budget are on the same order as the temperature trend, the analysis nonetheless demonstrates that mixed layer temperature variations associated with the canonical MJO are driven largely by anomalous net surface heat flux. Net heat flux is dominated by anomalies in shortwave and latent heat fluxes, the relative importance of which varies between active and suppressed MJO conditions. Additionally, rapid deepening of the mixed layer in the central Indian Ocean during the onset of active MJO conditions induces significant basin-wide entrainment cooling. In the central equatorial Indian Ocean, MJO-induced variations in mixed layer depth can modulate net surface heat flux, and therefore mixed layer temperature variations, by up to ~40%. This highlights the importance of correctly representing intraseasonal mixed layer depth variations in climate models in order to accurately simulate mixed layer temperature, and thus air–sea interaction, associated with the MJO.

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ChuanLi Jiang
,
Sarah T. Gille
,
Janet Sprintall
, and
Colm Sweeney

Abstract

Surface water partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) variations in Drake Passage are examined using decade-long underway shipboard measurements. North of the Polar Front (PF), the observed pCO2 shows a seasonal cycle that peaks annually in August and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC)–forced variations are significant. Just south of the PF, pCO2 shows a small seasonal cycle that peaks annually in February, reflecting the opposing effects of changes in SST and DIC in the surface waters. At the PF, the wintertime pCO2 is nearly in equilibrium with the atmosphere, leading to a small sea-to-air CO2 flux.

These observations are used to evaluate eight available Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, phase 5 (CMIP5), Earth system models (ESMs). Six ESMs reproduce the observed annual-mean pCO2 values averaged over the Drake Passage region. However, the model amplitude of the pCO2 seasonal cycle exceeds the observed amplitude of the pCO2 seasonal cycle because of the model biases in SST and surface DIC. North of the PF, deep winter mixed layers play a larger role in pCO2 variations in the models than they do in observations. Four ESMs show elevated wintertime pCO2 near the PF, causing a significant sea-to-air CO2 flux. Wintertime winds in these models are generally stronger than the satellite-derived winds. This not only magnifies the sea-to-air CO2 flux but also upwells DIC-rich water to the surface and drives strong equatorward Ekman currents. These strong model currents likely advect the upwelled DIC farther equatorward, as strong stratification in the models precludes subduction below the mixed layer.

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ChuanLi Jiang
,
Sarah T. Gille
,
Janet Sprintall
, and
Kei Yoshimura
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ChuanLi Jiang
,
Sarah T. Gille
,
Janet Sprintall
,
Kei Yoshimura
, and
Masao Kanamitsu

Abstract

High-resolution underway shipboard atmospheric and oceanic observations collected in Drake Passage from 2000 to 2009 are used to examine the spatial scales of turbulent heat fluxes and flux-related state variables. The magnitude of the seasonal cycle of sea surface temperature (SST) south of the Polar Front is found to be twice that north of the front, but the seasonal cycles of the turbulent heat fluxes show no differences on either side of the Polar Front. Frequency spectra of the turbulent heat fluxes and related variables are red, with no identifiable spectral peaks. SST and air temperature are coherent over a range of frequencies corresponding to periods between ~10 h and 2 days, with SST leading air temperature. The spatial decorrelation length scales of the sensible and latent heat fluxes calculated from two-day transects are 65 ± 6 km and 80 ± 6 km, respectively. The scale of the sensible heat flux is consistent with the decorrelation scale for air–sea temperature differences (70 ± 6 km) rather than either SST (153 ± 2 km) or air temperature (138 ± 4 km) alone. These scales are dominated by the Polar Front. When the Polar Front region is excluded, the decorrelation scales are 10–20 km, consistent with the first baroclinic Rossby radius.

These eddy scales are often unrepresented in the available gridded heat flux products. The Drake Passage ship measurements are compared with four recently available gridded turbulent heat flux products: the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts high-resolution operational product in support of the Year of Coordinated Observing Modeling and Forcasting Tropical Convection (ECMWF-YOTC), ECMWF interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim), the Drake Passage reanalysis downscaling (DPRD10) regional product, and the objectively analyzed air–sea fluxes (OAFlux). The decorrelation length scales of the air–sea temperature difference, wind speed, and turbulent heat fluxes from these four products are significantly larger than those determined from shipboard measurements.

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