Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 13 items for

  • Author or Editor: Jonathan Gula x
  • All content x
Clear All Modify Search
Jonathan Gula and W. Richard Peltier

Abstract

The Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) is employed to dynamically downscale global warming projections produced using the Community Climate System Model (CCSM). The analyses are focused on the Great Lakes Basin of North America and the climate change projections extend from the instrumental period (1979–2001) to midcentury (2050–60) at a spatial resolution of 10 km. Because WRF does not currently include a sufficiently realistic lake component, simulations are performed using lake water temperature provided by D.V. Mironov’s freshwater lake model “FLake” forced by atmospheric fields from the global simulations. Results for the instrumental era are first compared with observations to evaluate the ability of the lake model to provide accurate lake water temperature and ice cover and to analyze the skill of the regional model. It is demonstrated that the regional model, with its finer resolution and more comprehensive physics, provides significantly improved results compared to those obtained from the global model. It much more accurately captures the details of the annual cycle and spatial pattern of precipitation. In particular, much more realistic lake-induced precipitation and snowfall patterns downwind of the lakes are predicted. The midcentury projection is analyzed to determine the impact of downscaling on regional climate changes. The emphasis in this final phase of the analysis is on the impact of climate change on winter snowfall in the lee of the lakes. It is found that future changes in lake surface temperature and ice cover under warmer conditions may locally increase snowfall as a result of increased evaporation and the enhanced lake effect.

Full access
Christian E. Buckingham, Jonathan Gula, and Xavier Carton

Abstract

We continue our study of the role of curvature in modifying frontal stability. In Part I, we obtained an instability criterion valid for curved fronts and vortices in gradient wind balance (GWB): Φ′ = Lq′ < 0, where L′ and q′ are the nondimensional absolute angular momentum and Ertel potential vorticity (PV), respectively. In Part II, we investigate this criterion in a parameter space representative of low-Richardson-number fronts and vortices in GWB. An interesting outcome is that, for Richardson numbers near 1, anticyclonic flows increase in q′, while cyclonic flows decrease in q′, tending to stabilize anticyclonic and destabilize cyclonic flow. Although stability is marginal or weak for anticyclonic flow (owing to multiplication by L′), the destabilization of cyclonic flow is pronounced, and may help to explain an observed asymmetry in the distribution of small-scale, coherent vortices in the ocean interior. We are referring to midlatitude submesoscale and polar mesoscale vortices that are generated by friction and/or buoyancy forcing within boundary layers but that are often documented outside these layers. A comparison is made between several documented vortices and predicted stability maps, providing support for the proposed mechanism. A simple expression, which is a root of the stability discriminant Φ′, explains the observed asymmetry in the distribution of vorticity. In conclusion, the generalized criterion is consistent with theory, observations, and recent modeling studies and demonstrates that curvature in low-stratified environments can destabilize cyclonic and stabilize anticyclonic fronts and vortices to symmetric instability. The results may have implications for Earth system models.

Open access
Christian E. Buckingham, Jonathan Gula, and Xavier Carton

Abstract

In this study, we examine the role of curvature in modifying frontal stability. We first evaluate the classical criterion that the Coriolis parameter f multiplied by the Ertel potential vorticity (PV) q is positive for stable flow and that instability is possible when this quantity is negative. The first portion of this statement can be deduced from Ertel’s PV theorem, assuming an initially positive fq. Moreover, the full statement is implicit in the governing equation for the mean geostrophic flow, as the discriminant, fq, changes sign. However, for curved fronts in cyclogeostrophic or gradient wind balance (GWB), an additional term enters the discriminant owing to conservation of absolute angular momentum L. The resulting expression, (1 + Cu)fq < 0 or Lq < 0, where Cu is a nondimensional number quantifying the curvature of the flow, simultaneously generalizes Rayleigh’s criterion by accounting for baroclinicity and Hoskins’s criterion by accounting for centrifugal effects. In particular, changes in the front’s vertical shear and stratification owing to curvature tilt the absolute vorticity vector away from its thermal wind state; in an effort to conserve the product of absolute angular momentum and Ertel PV, this modifies gradient Rossby and Richardson numbers permitted for stable flow. This forms the basis of a nondimensional expression that is valid for inviscid, curved fronts on the f plane, which can be used to classify frontal instabilities. In conclusion, the classical criterion fq < 0 should be replaced by the more general criterion for studies involving gravitational, centrifugal, and symmetric instabilities at curved density fronts. In Part II of the study, we examine interesting outcomes of the criterion applied to low-Richardson-number fronts and vortices in GWB.

Open access
Jonathan Gula, M. Jeroen Molemaker, and James C. McWilliams

Abstract

The Gulf Stream strongly interacts with the topography along the southeastern U.S. seaboard, between the Straits of Florida and Cape Hatteras. The dynamics of the Gulf Stream in this region is investigated with a set of realistic, very high-resolution simulations using the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS). The mean path is strongly influenced by the topography and in particular the Charleston Bump. There are significant local pressure anomalies and topographic form stresses exerted by the bump that retard the mean flow and steer the mean current pathway seaward. The topography provides, through bottom pressure torque, the positive input of barotropic vorticity necessary to balance the meridional transport of fluid and close the gyre-scale vorticity balance. The effect of the topography on the development of meanders and eddies is studied by computing energy budgets of the eddies and the mean flow. The baroclinic instability is stabilized by the slope everywhere except past the bump. The flow is barotropically unstable, and kinetic energy is converted from the mean flow to the eddies following the Straits of Florida and at the bump with regions of eddy-to-mean conversion in between. There is eddy growth by Reynolds stress and downstream development of the eddies. Interaction of the flow with the topography acts as an external forcing process to localize these oceanic storm tracks. Associated time-averaged eddy fluxes are essential to maintain and reshape the mean current. The pattern of eddy fluxes is interpreted in terms of eddy life cycle, eddy fluxes being directed downgradient in eddy growth regions and upgradient in eddy decay regions.

Full access
James C. McWilliams, Jonathan Gula, and M. Jeroen Molemaker

Abstract

Eastward zonal jets are common in the ocean and atmosphere, for example, the Gulf Stream and jet stream. They are characterized by atypically strong horizontal velocity, baroclinic vertical structure with an upward flow intensification, large change in the density stratification meridionally across the jet, large-scale meanders around a central latitude, narrow troughs and broad crests, and a sharp and vertically sloping northern (poleward) “wall” defined by horizontal maxima in the lateral gradients of both velocity and density. Measurements and realistic oceanic simulations show these features in the Gulf Stream downstream from its western boundary separation point. A diagnostic theory based on the conservative balance equations is developed to calculate the 3D velocity field associated with the dynamic height field. When applied to an idealized representation of a meandering jet, it explains the spatial structure of the associated ageostrophic secondary circulation around the jet and the positive frontogenetic tendency along the northern wall in the meander sector located upstream from the trough. This provides a basis for understanding why submesoscale instabilities and cross-wall intrusion and streamer events are more prevalent along the sector downstream from the trough and at the crest where there is not such a frontogenetic tendency. An important attribute for this frontogenesis pattern is the 3D shape of the jet, whose idealization is summarized above.

Full access
Jonathan Gula, M. Jeroen Molemaker, and James C. McWilliams

Abstract

Frontal eddies are commonly observed and understood as the product of an instability of the Gulf Stream along the southeastern U.S. seaboard. Here, the authors study the dynamics of a simulated Gulf Stream frontal eddy in the South Atlantic Bight, including its structure, propagation, and emergent submesoscale interior and neighboring substructure, at very high resolution (dx = 150 m). A rich submesoscale structure is revealed inside the frontal eddy. Meander-induced frontogenesis sharpens the gradients and forms very sharp fronts between the eddy and the adjacent Gulf Stream. The strong straining increases the velocity shear and suppresses the development of barotropic instability on the upstream face of the meander trough. Barotropic instability of the sheared flow develops from small-amplitude perturbations when the straining weakens at the trough. Small-scale meandering perturbations evolve into rolled-up submesoscale vortices that are advected back into the interior of the frontal eddy. The deep fronts mix the tracer properties and enhance vertical exchanges of tracers between the mixed layer and the interior, as diagnosed by virtual Lagrangian particles. The frontal eddy also locally creates a strong southward flow against the shelf leading to topographic generation of submesoscale centrifugal instability and mixing. In eddy-resolving models that do not resolve these submesoscale processes, there is a significant weakening of the intensity of the upwelling in the core of the frontal eddies, and their decay is generally too fast.

Full access
Jonathan Gula, M. Jeroen Molemaker, and James C. McWilliams

Abstract

A set of realistic, very high-resolution simulations is made for the Gulf Stream region using the oceanic model Regional Oceanic Modeling System (ROMS) to study the life cycle of the intense submesoscale cold filaments that form on the subtropical gyre, interior wall of the Gulf Stream. The surface buoyancy gradients and ageostrophic secondary circulations intensify in response to the mesoscale strain field as predicted by the theory of filamentogenesis. It can be understood in terms of a dual frontogenetic process, along the lines understood for a single front. There is, however, a stronger secondary circulation due to the amplification at the center of a cold filament. Filament dynamics in the presence of a mixed layer are not adequately described by the classical thermal wind balance. The effect of vertical mixing of momentum due to turbulence in the surface layer is of the same order of magnitude as the pressure gradient and Coriolis force and contributes equally to a so-called turbulent thermal wind balance. Filamentogenesis is disrupted by vigorous submesoscale instabilities. The cause of the instability is the lateral shear as energy production by the horizontal Reynolds stress is the primary fluctuation source during the process; this contrasts with the usual baroclinic instability of submesoscale surface fronts. The filaments are lines of strong oceanic surface convergence as illustrated by the release of Lagrangian parcels in the Gulf Stream. Diabatic mixing is strong as parcels move across the filaments and downwell into the pycnocline. The life cycle of a filament is typically a few days in duration, from intensification to quasi stationarity to instability to dissipation.

Full access
Jacob O. Wenegrat, Leif N. Thomas, Jonathan Gula, and James C. McWilliams

Abstract

Nonconservative processes change the potential vorticity (PV) of the upper ocean and, later, through the subduction of surface waters into the interior, affect the general ocean circulation. Here we focus on how boundary layer turbulence, in the presence of submesoscale horizontal buoyancy gradients, generates a source of potential vorticity at the ocean surface through a balance known as the turbulent thermal wind. This source of PV injection at the submesoscale can be of similar magnitude to PV fluxes from the wind and surface buoyancy fluxes, and hence can lead to a net injection of PV onto outcropped isopycnals even during periods of surface buoyancy loss. The significance of these dynamics is illustrated using a high-resolution realistic model of the North Atlantic Subtropical Mode Water (Eighteen Degree Water), where it is demonstrated that injection of PV at the submesoscale reduces the rate of mode water PV removal by a factor of ~2 and shortens the annual period of mode water formation by ~3 weeks, relative to air–sea fluxes alone. Submesoscale processes thus provide a direct link between small-scale boundary layer turbulence and the gyre-scale circulation, through their effect on mode water formation, with implications for understanding the variability and biogeochemical properties of ocean mode waters globally.

Full access
René Schubert, Jonathan Gula, Richard J. Greatbatch, Burkard Baschek, and Arne Biastoch

Abstract

Mesoscale eddies can be strengthened by the absorption of submesoscale eddies resulting from mixed layer baroclinic instabilities. This is shown for mesoscale eddies in the Agulhas Current system by investigating the kinetic energy cascade with a spectral and a coarse-graining approach in two model simulations of the Agulhas region. One simulation resolves mixed layer baroclinic instabilities and one does not. When mixed layer baroclinic instabilities are included, the largest submesoscale near-surface fluxes occur in wintertime in regions of strong mesoscale activity for upscale as well as downscale directions. The forward cascade at the smallest resolved scales occurs mainly in frontogenetic regions in the upper 30 m of the water column. In the Agulhas ring path, the forward cascade changes to an inverse cascade at a typical scale of mixed layer eddies (15 km). At the same scale, the largest sources of the upscale flux occur. After the winter, the maximum of the upscale flux shifts to larger scales. Depending on the region, the kinetic energy reaches the mesoscales in spring or early summer aligned with the maximum of mesoscale kinetic energy. This indicates the importance of submesoscale flows for the mesoscale seasonal cycle. A case study shows that the underlying process is the mesoscale absorption of mixed layer eddies. When mixed layer baroclinic instabilities are not included in the simulation, the open-ocean upscale cascade in the Agulhas ring path is almost absent. This contributes to a 20% reduction of surface kinetic energy at mesoscales larger than 100 km when submesoscale dynamics are not resolved by the model.

Open access
James C. McWilliams, Jonathan Gula, M. Jeroen Molemaker, Lionel Renault, and Alexander F. Shchepetkin

Abstract

A submesoscale filament of dense water in the oceanic surface layer can undergo frontogenesis with a secondary circulation that has a surface horizontal convergence and downwelling in its center. This occurs either because of the mesoscale straining deformation or because of the surface boundary layer turbulence that causes vertical eddy momentum flux divergence or, more briefly, vertical momentum mixing. In the latter case the circulation approximately has a linear horizontal momentum balance among the baroclinic pressure gradient, Coriolis force, and vertical momentum mixing, that is, a turbulent thermal wind. The frontogenetic evolution induced by the turbulent mixing sharpens the transverse gradient of the longitudinal velocity (i.e., it increases the vertical vorticity) through convergent advection by the secondary circulation. In an approximate model based on the turbulent thermal wind, the central vorticity approaches a finite-time singularity, and in a more general hydrostatic model, the central vorticity and horizontal convergence are amplified by shrinking the transverse scale to near the model’s resolution limit within a short advective period on the order of a day.

Full access