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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.

Full access
Jesse M. Cusack
,
J. Alexander Brearley
,
Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
,
David A. Smeed
,
Kurt L. Polzin
,
Nick Velzeboer
, and
Callum J. Shakespeare

Abstract

The physical mechanisms that remove energy from the Southern Ocean’s vigorous mesoscale eddy field are not well understood. One proposed mechanism is direct energy transfer to the internal wave field in the ocean interior, via eddy-induced straining and shearing of preexisting internal waves. The magnitude, vertical structure, and temporal variability of the rate of energy transfer between eddies and internal waves is quantified from a 14-month deployment of a mooring cluster in the Scotia Sea. Velocity and buoyancy observations are decomposed into wave and eddy components, and the energy transfer is estimated using the Reynolds-averaged energy equation. We find that eddies gain energy from the internal wave field at a rate of −2.2 ± 0.6 mW m−2, integrated from the bottom to 566 m below the surface. This result can be decomposed into a positive (eddy to wave) component, equal to 0.2 ± 0.1 mW m−2, driven by horizontal straining of internal waves, and a negative (wave to eddy) component, equal to −2.5 ± 0.6 mW m−2, driven by vertical shearing of the wave spectrum. Temporal variability of the transfer rate is much greater than the mean value. Close to topography, large energy transfers are associated with low-frequency buoyancy fluxes, the underpinning physics of which do not conform to linear wave dynamics and are thereby in need of further research. Our work suggests that eddy–internal wave interactions may play a significant role in the energy balance of the Southern Ocean mesoscale eddy and internal wave fields.

Open access
Jesse M. Cusack
,
Gunnar Voet
,
Matthew H. Alford
,
James B. Girton
,
Glenn S. Carter
,
Larry J. Pratt
,
Kelly A. Pearson-Potts
, and
Shuwen Tan

Abstract

Abyssal waters forming the lower limb of the global overturning circulation flow through the Samoan Passage and are modified by intense mixing. Thorpe-scale-based estimates of dissipation from moored profilers deployed on top of two sills for 17 months reveal that turbulence is continuously generated in the passage. Overturns were observed in a density band in which the Richardson number was often smaller than ¼, consistent with shear instability occurring at the upper interface of the fast-flowing bottom water layer. The magnitude of dissipation was found to be stable on long time scales from weeks to months. A second array of 12 moored profilers deployed for a shorter duration but profiling at higher frequency was able to resolve variability in dissipation on time scales from days to hours. At some mooring locations, near-inertial and tidal modulation of the dissipation rate was observed. However, the modulation was not spatially coherent across the passage. The magnitude and vertical structure of dissipation from observations at one of the major sills is compared with an idealized 2D numerical simulation that includes a barotropic tidal forcing. Depth-integrated dissipation rates agree between model and observations to within a factor of 3. The tide has a negligible effect on the mean dissipation. These observations reinforce the notion that the Samoan Passage is an important mixing hot spot in the global ocean where waters are being transformed continuously.

Open access
Gunnar Voet
,
Matthew H. Alford
,
Jesse M. Cusack
,
Larry J. Pratt
,
James B. Girton
,
Glenn S. Carter
,
Jody M. Klymak
,
Shuwen Tan
, and
Andreas M. Thurnherr

Abstract

The energy and momentum balance of an abyssal overflow across a major sill in the Samoan Passage is estimated from two highly resolved towed sections, set 16 months apart, and results from a two-dimensional numerical simulation. Driven by the density anomaly across the sill, the flow is relatively steady. The system gains energy from divergence of horizontal pressure work O ( 5 ) kW m 1 and flux of available potential energy O ( 2 ) kW m 1 . Approximately half of these gains are transferred into kinetic energy while the other half is lost to turbulent dissipation, bottom drag, and divergence in vertical pressure work. Small-scale internal waves emanating downstream of the sill within the overflow layer radiate O ( 1 ) kW m 1 upward but dissipate most of their energy within the dense overflow layer and at its upper interface. The strongly sheared and highly stratified upper interface acts as a critical layer inhibiting any appreciable upward radiation of energy via topographically generated lee waves. Form drag of O ( 2 ) N m 2 , estimated from the pressure drop across the sill, is consistent with energy lost to dissipation and internal wave fluxes. The topographic drag removes momentum from the mean flow, slowing it down and feeding a countercurrent aloft. The processes discussed in this study combine to convert about one-third of the energy released from the cross-sill density difference into turbulent mixing within the overflow and at its upper interface. The observed and modeled vertical momentum flux divergence sustains gradients in shear and stratification, thereby maintaining an efficient route for abyssal water mass transformation downstream of this Samoan Passage sill.

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