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Jessica S. Kenigson, Weiqing Han, Balaji Rajagopalan, Yanto, and Mike Jasinski

Abstract

Recent studies have linked interannual sea level variability and extreme events along the U.S. northeast coast (NEC) to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a natural internal climate mode that prevails in the North Atlantic Ocean. The correlation between the NAO index and coastal sea level north of Cape Hatteras was weak from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, but it has markedly increased since around 1987. The causes for the decadal shift remain unknown. Yet understanding the abrupt change is vital for decadal sea level prediction and is essential for risk management. Here we use a robust method, the Bayesian dynamic linear model (DLM), to explore the nonstationary NAO impact on NEC sea level. The results show that a spatial pattern change of NAO-related winds near the NEC is a major cause of the NAO–sea level relationship shift. A new index using regional sea level pressure is developed that is a significantly better predictor of NEC sea level than is the NAO and is strongly linked to the intensity of westerly winds near the NEC. These results point to the vital importance of monitoring regional changes of wind and sea level pressure patterns, rather than the NAO index alone, to achieve more accurate predictions of sea level change along the NEC.

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Jessica S. Kenigson, Renske Gelderloos, and Georgy E. Manucharyan

Abstract

Theories of the Beaufort Gyre (BG) dynamics commonly represent the halocline as a single layer with a thickness depending on the Eulerian-mean and eddy-induced overturning. However, observations suggest that the isopycnal slope increases with depth, and a theory to explain this profile remains outstanding. Here we develop a multilayer model of the BG, including the Eulerian-mean velocity, mesoscale eddy activity, diapycnal mixing, and lateral boundary fluxes, and use it to investigate the dynamics within the Pacific Winter Water (PWW) layer. Using theoretical considerations, observational data, and idealized simulations, we demonstrate that the eddy overturning is critical in explaining the observed vertical structure. In the absence of the eddy overturning, the Ekman pumping and the relatively weak vertical mixing would displace isopycnals in a nearly parallel fashion, contrary to observations. This study finds that the observed increase of the isopycnal slope with depth in the climatological state of the gyre is consistent with a Gent–McWilliams eddy diffusivity coefficient that decreases by at least 10%–40% over the PWW layer. We further show that the depth-dependent eddy diffusivity profile can explain the relative magnitude of the correlated isopycnal depth and layer thickness fluctuations on interannual time scales. Our inference that the eddy overturning generates the isopycnal layer thickness gradients is consistent with the parameterization of eddies via a Gent–McWilliams scheme but not potential vorticity diffusion. This study implies that using a depth-independent eddy diffusivity, as is commonly done in low-resolution ocean models, may contribute to misrepresentation of the interior BG dynamics.

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