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Jai Sukhatme, Dipanjan Chaudhuri, Jennifer MacKinnon, S. Shivaprasad, and Debasis Sengupta

Abstract

Horizontal currents in the Bay of Bengal were measured on eight cruises covering a total of 8600 km using a 300-kHz acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP). The cruises are distributed over multiple seasons and regions of the Bay. Horizontal wavenumber spectra of these currents over depths of 12–54 m and wavelengths from 2 to 400 km were decomposed into rotational and divergent components assuming isotropy. An average of across- and along-track spectra over all cruises shows that the spectral slope of horizontal kinetic energy for wavelengths of 10–80-km scales with an exponent of −1.7 ± 0.05, which transitions to a steeper slope for wavelengths above 80 km. The rotational component is significantly larger than the divergent component at scales greater than 80 km, while the ratio of the two is nearly constant with a mean of 1.16 ± 0.4 between 10 and 80 km. The measurements show a fair amount of variability and spectral levels vary between cruises by about a factor of 5 over 10–100 km. Velocity differences over 10–80 km show probability density functions and structure functions with stretched exponential behavior and anomalous scaling. Comparisons with the Garrett–Munk internal wave spectrum indicate that inertia–gravity waves account for only a modest fraction of the kinetic energy between 10 and 80 km. These constraints suggest that the near-surface flow in the Bay is primarily balanced and follows a forward enstrophy transfer quasigeostrophic regime for wavelengths greater than approximately 80 km, with a larger role for unbalanced rotating stratified turbulence and internal waves at smaller scales.

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Nicole Couto, Matthew H. Alford, Jennifer MacKinnon, and John B. Mickett

Abstract

Three shipboard survey lines were occupied in Bering Strait during autumn of 2015, where high-resolution measurements of temperature, salinity, velocity, and turbulent dissipation rates were collected. These first-reported turbulence measurements in Bering Strait show that dissipation rates here are high even during calm winds. High turbulence in the strait has important implications for the modification of water properties during transit from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean. Measured diffusivities averaging 2 × 10−2 m2 s−1 are capable of causing watermass property changes of 0.1°C and 0.1 psu during the ~1–2-day transit through the narrowest part of the strait. We estimate friction velocity using both the dissipation and profile methods and find a bottom drag coefficient of 2.3 (±0.4) × 10−3. This result is smaller than values typically used to estimate bottom stress in the region and may improve predictions of transport variability through Bering Strait.

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Kristin L. Zeiden, Daniel L. Rudnick, and Jennifer A. MacKinnon

Abstract

In this study, a 2-yr time series of velocity profiles to 1000 m from meridional glider surveys is used to characterize the wake in the lee of a large island in the western tropical North Pacific Ocean, Palau. Surveys were completed along sections to the east and west of the island to capture both upstream and downstream conditions. Objectively mapped in time and space, mean sections of velocity show the incident westward North Equatorial Current accelerating around the island of Palau, increasing from 0.1 to 0.2 m s−1 at the surface. Downstream of the island, elevated velocity variability and return flow in the lee are indicative of boundary layer separation. Isolating for periods of depth-average westward flow reveals a length scale in the wake that reflects local details of the topography. Eastward flow is shown to produce an asymmetric wake. Depth-average velocity time series indicate that energetic events (on time scales from weeks to months) are prevalent. These events are associated with mean vorticity values in the wake up to 0.3f near the surface and with instantaneous values that can exceed f (the local Coriolis frequency) during periods of sustained, anomalously strong westward flow. Thus, ageostrophic effects become important to first order.

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Zhongxiang Zhao, Matthew H. Alford, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, and Rob Pinkel

Abstract

The northeastward progression of the semidiurnal internal tide from French Frigate Shoals (FFS), Hawaii, is studied with an array of six simultaneous profiling moorings spanning 25.5°–37.1°N (≈1400 km) and 13-yr-long Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon (T/P) altimeter data processed by a new technique. The moorings have excellent temporal and vertical resolutions, while the altimeter offers broad spatial coverage of the surface manifestation of the internal tide’s coherent portion. Together these two approaches provide a unique view of the internal tide’s long-range propagation in a complex ocean environment. The moored observations reveal a rich, time-variable, and multimodal internal tide field, with higher-mode motions contributing significantly to velocity, displacement, and energy. In spite of these contributions, the coherent mode-1 internal tide dominates the northeastward energy flux, and is detectable in both moored and altimetric data over the entire array. Phase and group propagation measured independently from moorings and altimetry agree well with theoretical values. Sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs) measured from moorings and altimetry agree well in amplitude and phase until the northern end of the array, where phase differences arise presumably from refraction by mesoscale flows. Observed variations in SSHA, energy flux, and kinetic-to-potential energy ratio indicate an interference pattern resulting from superposed northeastward radiation from Hawaii and southeastward from the Aleutian Ridge. A simple model of two plane waves explains most of these features.

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André Palóczy, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, and Amy F. Waterhouse

Abstract

We describe the spatiotemporal variability and vertical structure of turbulent Reynolds stresses (RSs) in a stratified inner shelf with an energetic internal wave climate. The RSs are estimated from direct measurements of velocity variance derived from bottom-mounted acoustic Doppler current profilers. We link the RSs to different physical processes, namely, internal bores, midwater shear instabilities within vertical shear events related to wind-driven subtidal along-shelf currents, and nonturbulent stresses related to incoming nonlinear internal wave (NLIW) trains. The typical RS magnitudes are O(0.01) Pa for background conditions, with diurnal pulses of O(0.1–1) Pa, and O(1) Pa for the NLIW stresses. A NLIW train is observed to produce a depth-averaged vertical stress divergence sufficient to accelerate water 20 cm s−1 in 1 h, suggesting NLIWs may also be important contributors to the depth-averaged momentum budget. The subtidal stresses show significant periodic variability and are O(0.1) Pa. Conditionally averaged velocity and RS profiles for northward/southward flow provide evidence for downgradient turbulent momentum fluxes, but also indicate departures from this expected regime. Estimates of the terms in the depth-averaged momentum equation suggest that the vertical divergence of the RSs are important terms in both the cross-shelf and along-shelf directions, with geostrophy also present at leading-order in the cross-shelf momentum balance. Among other conclusions, the results highlight that internal bores and shoaling NLIWs may also be important dynamical players in other inner shelves with energetic internal waves.

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Caitlin B. Whalen, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Lynne D. Talley, and Amy F. Waterhouse

Abstract

Finescale methods are currently being applied to estimate the mean turbulent dissipation rate and diffusivity on regional and global scales. This study evaluates finescale estimates derived from isopycnal strain by comparing them with average microstructure profiles from six diverse environments including the equator, above ridges, near seamounts, and in strong currents. The finescale strain estimates are derived from at least 10 nearby Argo profiles (generally <60 km distant) with no temporal restrictions, including measurements separated by seasons or decades. The absence of temporal limits is reasonable in these cases, since the authors find the dissipation rate is steady over seasonal time scales at the latitudes being considered (0°–30° and 40°–50°). In contrast, a seasonal cycle of a factor of 2–5 in the upper 1000 m is found under storm tracks (30°–40°) in both hemispheres. Agreement between the mean dissipation rate calculated using Argo profiles and mean from microstructure profiles is within a factor of 2–3 for 96% of the comparisons. This is both congruous with the physical scaling underlying the finescale parameterization and indicates that the method is effective for estimating the regional mean dissipation rates in the open ocean.

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Matthew H. Alford, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Robert Pinkel, and Jody M. Klymak

Abstract

The spatial, temporal, and directional characteristics of shear are examined in the upper 1400 m of the North Pacific during late spring with an array of five profiling moorings deployed from 25° to 37°N (1330 km) and simultaneous shipboard transects past them. The array extended from a regime of moderate wind generation at the north to south of the critical latitude 28.8°N, where parametric subharmonic instability (PSI) can transfer energy from semidiurnal tides to near-inertial motions. Analyses are done in an isopycnal-following frame to minimize contamination by Doppler shifting. Approximately 60% of RMS shear at vertical scales >20m (and 80% for vertical scales >80 m) is contained in near-inertial motions. An inertial back-rotation technique is used to index shipboard observations to a common time and to compute integral time scales of the shear layers. Persistence times are O(7) days at most moorings but O(25) days at the critical latitude. Simultaneous shipboard transects show that these shear layers can have lateral scales ≥100 km. Layers tend to slope downward toward the equator north of the critical latitude and are more flat to its south. Phase between shear and strain is used to infer lateral propagation direction. Upgoing waves are everywhere laterally isotropic. Downgoing waves propagate predominantly equatorward north and south of the critical latitude but are isotropic near it. Broadly, results are consistent with wind generation north of the critical latitude and PSI near it—and suggest a more persistent and laterally coherent near-inertial wave field than previously thought.

Open access
Elizabeth C. Fine, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Matthew H. Alford, and John B. Mickett

Abstract

An intrahalocline eddy was observed on the Chukchi slope in September of 2015 using both towed CTD and microstructure temperature and shear sections. The core of the eddy was 6°C, significantly warmer than the surrounding −1°C water and far exceeding typical temperatures of warm-core Arctic eddies. Microstructure sections indicated that outside of the eddy the rate of dissipation of turbulent kinetic energy ε was quite low . However, at the edges of the eddy core, ε was elevated to . Three different processes were associated with elevated ε. Double-diffusive steps were found at the eddy’s top edge and were associated with an upward heat flux of 5 W m−2. At the bottom edge of the eddy, shear-driven mixing played a modest role, generating a heat flux of approximately 0.5 W m−2 downward. Along the sides of the eddy, density-compensated thermohaline intrusions transported heat laterally out of the eddy, with a horizontal heat flux of 2000 W m−2. Integrating these fluxes over an idealized approximation of the eddy’s shape, we estimate that the net heat transport due to thermohaline intrusions along the eddy flanks was 2 GW, while the double-diffusive flux above the eddy was 0.4 GW. Shear-driven mixing at the bottom of the eddy accounted for only 0.04 GW. If these processes continued indefinitely at the same rate, the estimated life-span would be 1–2 years. Such eddies may be an important mechanism for the transport of Pacific-origin heat, freshwater, and nutrients into the Canada Basin.

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Marina Frants, Gillian M. Damerell, Sarah T. Gille, Karen J. Heywood, Jennifer MacKinnon, and Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Finescale estimates of diapycnal diffusivity κ are computed from CTD and expendable CTD (XCTD) data sampled in Drake Passage and in the eastern Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean and are compared against microstructure measurements from the same times and locations. The microstructure data show vertical diffusivities that are one-third to one-fifth as large over the smooth abyssal plain in the southeastern Pacific as they are in Drake Passage, where diffusivities are thought to be enhanced by the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current over rough topography. Finescale methods based on vertical strain estimates are successful at capturing the spatial variability between the low-mixing regime in the southeastern Pacific and the high-mixing regime of Drake Passage. Thorpe-scale estimates for the same dataset fail to capture the differences between Drake Passage and eastern Pacific estimates. XCTD profiles have lower vertical resolution and higher noise levels after filtering than CTD profiles, resulting in XCTD κ estimates that are, on average, an order of magnitude higher than CTD estimates. Overall, microstructure diffusivity estimates are better matched by strain-based estimates than by estimates based on Thorpe scales, and CTD data appear to perform better than XCTD data. However, even the CTD-based strain diffusivity estimates can differ from microstructure diffusivities by nearly an order of magnitude, suggesting that density-based fine-structure methods of estimating mixing from CTD or XCTD data have real limitations in low-stratification regimes such as the Southern Ocean.

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Kristin L. Zeiden, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, Matthew H. Alford, Daniel L. Rudnick, Gunnar Voet, and Hemantha Wijesekera

Abstract

An array of moorings deployed off the coast of Palau is used to characterize submesoscale vorticity generated by broadband upper-ocean flows around the island. Palau is a steep-sided archipelago lying in the path of strong zonal geostrophic currents, but tides and inertial oscillations are energetic as well. Vorticity is correspondingly broadband, with both mean and variance O(f) in a surface and subsurface layer (where f is the local Coriolis frequency). However, while subinertial vorticity is linearly related to the incident subinertial current, the relationship between superinertial velocity and superinertial vorticity is weak. Instead, there is a strong nonlinear relationship between subinertial velocity and superinertial vorticity. A key observation of this study is that during periods of strong westward flow, vorticity in the tidal bands increases by an order of magnitude. Empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) of velocity show this nonstationary, superinertial vorticity variance is due to eddy motion at the scale of the array. Comparison of kinetic energy and vorticity time series suggest that lateral shear against the island varies with the subinertial flow, while tidal currents lead to flow reversals inshore of the recirculating wake and possibly eddy shedding. This is a departure from the idealized analog typically drawn on in island wake studies: a cylinder in a steady flow. In that case, eddy formation occurs at a frequency dependent on the scale of the obstacle and strength of the flow alone. The observed tidal formation frequency likely modulates the strength of submesoscale wake eddies and thus their dynamic relationship to the mesoscale wake downstream of Palau.

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