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Benjamin Jaimes and Lynn K. Shay

Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) Katrina and Rita moved as major hurricanes over energetic geostrophic ocean features in the Gulf of Mexico. Increased and reduced oceanic mixed layer (OML) cooling was measured following the passage of both storms over cyclonic and anticyclonic geostrophic relative vorticity ζg, respectively. This contrasting thermal response is investigated here in terms of the evolution of the storms’ near-inertial wave wake in geostrophic eddies. Observational data and ray-tracing techniques in realistic geostrophic flow indicate that TC-forced OML near-inertial waves are trapped in regions of negative ζg, where they rapidly propagate into the thermocline. These anticyclonic-rotating regimes coincided with the distribution of reduced OML cooling because rapid downward dispersion of near-inertial energy reduced the amount of kinetic energy available to increase vertical shears at the OML base. By contrast, TC-forced OML near-inertial waves were stalled in upper layers of cyclonic circulations, which strengthened vertical shears and entrainment cooling. Upgoing near-inertial energy propagation dominated inside a geostrophic cyclone that interacted with Katrina; the salient characteristics of these upward-propagating waves were the following: (i) they were radiated from the ocean interior because of geostrophic adjustment following upwelling–downwelling processes; (ii) rather than with the buoyancy frequency, they amplified horizontally as they encountered increasing values of f + ζg/2 during upward propagation; and (iii) they produced episodic vertical mixing through shear instability at a critical layer underneath the OML. To improve the prediction of TC-induced OML cooling, models must capture geostrophic features and turbulence closures must represent near-inertial wave processes such as dispersion and breaking between the OML base and the thermocline.

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Benjamin Jaimes and Lynn K. Shay

Abstract

During favorable atmospheric conditions, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita deepened to category 5 over the Loop Current’s (LC) bulge associated with an amplifying warm core eddy. Both hurricanes subsequently weakened to category 3 after passing over a cold core eddy (CCE) prior to making landfall. Reduced (increased) oceanic mixed layer (OML) cooling of ∼1°C (4.5°C) was observed over the LC (CCE) where the storms rapidly deepened (weakened). Data acquired during and subsequent to the passage of both hurricanes indicate that the modulated velocity response in these geostrophic features was responsible for the contrasts in the upper-ocean cooling levels. For similar wind forcing, the OML velocity response was about 2 times larger inside the CCE that interacted with Katrina than in the LC region affected by Rita, depending on the prestorm OML thickness. Hurricane-induced upwelling and vertical mixing were increased (reduced) in the CCE (LC). Less wind-driven kinetic energy was available to increase vertical shears for entrainment cooling in the LC, as the OML current response was weaker and energy was largely radiated into the thermocline. Estimates of downward vertical radiation of near-inertial wave energies were significantly stronger in the LC (12.1 × 10−2 W m−2) than in the CCE (1.8 × 10−2 W m−2). Katrina and Rita winds provided O(1010) W to the global internal wave power. The vertical mixing induced by both storms was confined to the surface water mass. From a broader perspective, models must capture oceanic features to reproduce the differentiated hurricane-induced OML cooling to improve hurricane intensity forecasting.

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Benjamin Jaimes and Lynn K. Shay

Abstract

Tropical cyclones (TCs) typically produce intense oceanic upwelling underneath the storm’s center and weaker and broader downwelling outside upwelled regions. However, several cases of predominantly downwelling responses over warm, anticyclonic mesoscale oceanic features were recently reported, where the ensuing upper-ocean warming prevented significant cooling of the sea surface, and TCs rapidly attained and maintained major status. Elucidating downwelling responses is critical to better understanding TC intensification over warm mesoscale oceanic features. Airborne ocean profilers deployed over the Gulf of Mexico’s eddy features during the intensification of tropical storm Isaac into a hurricane measured isothermal downwelling of up to 60 m over a 12-h interval (5 m h−1) or twice the upwelling strength underneath the storm’s center. This displacement occurred over a warm-core eddy that extended underneath Isaac’s left side, where the ensuing upper-ocean warming was ~8 kW m−2; sea surface temperatures >28°C prevailed during Isaac’s intensification. Rather than with just Ekman pumping W E, these observed upwelling–downwelling responses were consistent with a vertical velocity W s = W E − Rog δ(U h + U OML); Ws is the TC-driven pumping velocity, derived from the dominant vorticity balance that considers geostrophic flow strength (measured by the eddy Rossby number Rog = ζ g/f), geostrophic vorticity ζ g, Coriolis frequency f, aspect ratio δ = h/R max, oceanic mixed layer thickness h, storm’s radius of maximum winds R max, total surface stresses from storm motion U h, and oceanic mixed layer Ekman drift U OML. These results underscore the need for initializing coupled numerical models with realistic ocean states to correctly resolve the three-dimensional upwelling–downwelling responses and improve TC intensity forecasting.

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Lynn K. Shay and Jodi K. Brewster

Abstract

Recent evidence supports the premise that the subsurface ocean structure plays an important role in modulating air–sea fluxes during hurricane passage, which in turn, affects intensity change. Given the generally sparse in situ data, it has been difficult to provide region-to-basin-wide estimates of isotherm depths and upper-ocean heat content (OHC). In this broader context, satellite-derived sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs) from multiple platforms carrying radar altimeters are blended, objectively analyzed, and combined with a hurricane-season climatology to estimate isotherm depths and OHC within the context of a reduced gravity model at 0.25° spatial intervals in the eastern Pacific Ocean where tropical cyclone intensity change occurs.

Measurements from the Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate in 2001, long-term tropical ocean atmosphere mooring network, and volunteer observing ship deploying expendable bathythermograph (XBT) profilers are used to carefully evaluate satellite-based measurements of upper-ocean variability. Regression statistics reveal small biases with slopes of 0.8–0.9 between the subsurface measurements compared with isotherm depths (20° and 26°C), and OHC fields derived from objectively analyzed SSHA field. Root-mean-square differences in OHC range between 10 and 15 kJ cm−2 or roughly 10%–15% of the mean signals. Similar values are found for isotherm depth differences between in situ and inferred satellite-derived values. Blended daily values are used in the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS) forecasts as are OHC estimates for the Atlantic Ocean basin. An equivalent OHC variable is introduced that incorporates the strength of the thermocline at the base of the oceanic mixed layer using a climatological stratification parameter  /No, which seems better correlated to hurricane intensity change than just anomalies as observed in Hurricane Juliette in 2001.

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Lynn K. Shay and Simon W. Chang

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Free surface effects induced by an idealized hurricane based on observed air–sea variables in Hurricane Frederic are revisited to examine the barotropic and baroclinic response. Over five inertial periods comparisons between a one-layer and a 17-level model indicate a difference of 6–8 cm s−1 in the depth-averaged current and sea level oscillations of 4–5 cm. In a one-layer simulation, the surface slope geostrophically balances the depth-averaged current, whereas the 17-level model simulations indicate a near-inertially oscillating current of 7–8 cm s−1 found by removing the depth-averaged flow from the geostrophic currents induced by the surface slope. Surface undulations are driven by the depth-averaged nonlinear terms in the density equation, that is, [u ρx], [υρ y], and [w ρ z].

Based on fits of the 17 levels of demodulated horizontal velocities at 1.03f (f the Coriolis parameter) to the eigenfunctions, maximum amplitudes of the barotropic and first baroclinic modes are 7 and 58 cm s−1, respectively. The barotropic mode amplitude is consistent with the current found by removing the depth-averaged flow from the geostrophic current that contributes 2%–3% to the energy in the near-inertial wave pass band. Vertical velocity eigenfunctions at the surface indicate that the barotropic mode is at least 50 to 80 times larger than the baroclinic mode. Surface displacements by the barotropic mode have amplitudes of ±4 cm, explaining 90% to 95% of the height variations. The first baroclinic mode contributes about 0.2–0.4 cm to the free surface displacements. The weak barotropic near-inertial current provides a physical mechanism for the eventual breakup of the sea surface depression induced by the hurricane’s wind stress and surface Ekman divergence.

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Lynn K. Shay and Russell L. Elsberry

Abstract

Hurricane Frederic passed with 80 to 130 km of the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office current meter arrays in water depths ranging from 100 to 470 m near the DeSoto Canyon region, and within 150 km of an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) mooring in 1050 m of water. Excitation of near-inertial waves by the moving hurricane was observed throughout the water column along the canyon walls and at the OTEC site. The frequencies of the waves were blue-shifted between 1% to 6% above the local inertial frequency. The horizontal wavelength of 250 km is consistent with an energetic first baroclinic-mode response, but is considerably below the linear theory prediction of 550 km. The inferred vertical wavelengths of the immediate response exceeded 1000 m along the northern and eastern sides of the canyon since the currents throughout the water column increased within hours of the hurricane passage. Later, the vertical wavelengths were about equal to the water depth. The vertical group velocities associated with the first and second baroclinic modes were 0.15 and 0.03 cm s−1 within 2 and 7 inertial period (IP) following storm passage.

The vertical modes of the ocean current field are determined using a constant Brunt–Väisälä frequency based on AXBT data. Solutions with a flat bottom and with a sloping bottom are compared to illustrate the effect due to bottom topography in the DeSoto Canyon region. The horizontal velocity eigenfunctions are fit to the velocity amplitudes derived from the ocean current time series to estimate the time-dependent modal amplitudes. The time evolution of the first two baroclinic modes, viz. the large vertical scale modes, agrees well with the predictions from a linear, inviscid model. At all of the arrays, the summation of the depth-averaged flow and the first two flat-bottom modes explain 52%–62% of the near-inertial variance averaged over 7 IP following storm passage. The inclusion of the sloping bottom effect contributed an additional 5–6% of the variance for the baroclinic modes. The depth-averaged flow contributed about 20% to the near-inertial variability along the periphery of the DeSoto Canyon.

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S. Daniel Jacob and Lynn K. Shay

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Oceanic mixed layer (ML) response to Hurricane Gilbert in the western Gulf of Mexico is investigated in this paper using the Miami Isopycnic Coordinate Ocean Model (MICOM). Three snapshots of oceanic observations indicated that a Loop Current Warm Core Eddy (LCWCE) contributed significantly to the ML heat and mass budgets. To examine the time evolution of different physical processes in the ML, MICOM is initialized with realistic, climatological, and quiescent conditions for the same realistic forcing. The ML evolves differently for the realistic background condition with the LCWCE in the domain; differences between climatological and quiescent conditions remain small. Mixed layer temperature (MLT) and ML depth (MLD) differences of up to 1°C and 30 m are directly attributed to horizontal advective processes in the LCWCE regime due to preexisting velocities. Comparison of simulated temperatures using realistic conditions in the model shows improved agreement with profiler observations. Using four entrainment mixing parameterizations, the spatial and temporal ML evolution is investigated in MICOM simulations. Although the rates of simulated cooling and deepening differ for the four schemes, the overall pattern remains qualitatively similar. For the three schemes that use surface-induced turbulence to predict entrainment rate, the cooling pattern extends farther away from the track. Based on linear regression analysis, MLTs simulated using the bulk Richardson number closure fit the observed temperatures better than did the other schemes. Averaged surface fluxes ranged from 10% to 30% in the directly forced region, with larger values in the LCWCE regime. Overall, entrainment mixing remains the dominant mechanism in controlling the heat and mass budgets.

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Lynn K. Shay and Eric W. Uhlhorn

Abstract

Recent hurricane activity over the Gulf of Mexico basin has underscored the importance of the Loop Current (LC) and its deep, warm thermal structure on hurricane intensity. During Hurricanes Isidore and Lili in 2002, research flights were conducted from both National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) WP-3D aircraft to observe pre-, in- and poststorm ocean conditions using airborne expendable ocean profilers to measure temperature, salinity, and current structure. Atmospheric thermodynamic and wind profiles and remotely sensed surface winds were concurrently acquired as each storm moved over the LC.

Observed upper-ocean cooling was about 1°C as Isidore moved across the Yucatan Straits at a speed of 4 m s−1. Given prestorm ocean heat content (OHC) levels exceeding 100 kJ cm−2 in the LC (current velocities >1 m s−1), significant cooling and deepening of the ocean mixed layer (OML) did not occur in the straits. Estimated surface enthalpy flux at Isidore’s eyewall was 1.8 kW m−2, where the maximum observed wind was 49 m s−1. Spatially integrating these surface enthalpy fluxes suggested a maximum surface heat loss of 9.5 kJ cm−2 at the eyewall. Over the Yucatan Shelf, observed ocean cooling of 4.5°C was caused by upwelling processes induced by wind stress and an offshore wind-driven transport. During Hurricane Lili, ocean cooling in the LC was ∼1°C but more than 2°C in the Gulf Common Water, where the maximum estimated surface enthalpy flux was 1.4 kW m−2, associated with peak surface winds of 51 m s−1. Because of Lili’s asymmetric structure and rapid translational speed of 7 m s−1, the maximum surface heat loss resulting from the surface enthalpy flux was less than 5 kJ cm−2.

In both hurricanes, the weak ocean thermal response in the LC was primarily due to the lack of energetic near-inertial current shears that develop across the thin OML observed in quiescent regimes. Bulk Richardson numbers remained well above criticality because of the strength of the upper-ocean horizontal pressure gradient that forces northward current and thermal advection of warm water distributed over deep layers. As these oceanic regimes are resistive to shear-induced mixing, hurricanes experience a more sustained surface enthalpy flux compared to storms moving over shallow quiescent mixed layers. Because ocean cooling levels induced by hurricane force winds depend on the underlying oceanic regimes, features must be accurately initialized in coupled forecast models.

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Eric W. Uhlhorn and Lynn K. Shay

Abstract

The ocean mixed layer response to a tropical cyclone within and immediately adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current is examined. In the first of a two-part study, a comprehensive set of temperature, salinity, and current profiles acquired from aircraft-deployed expendable probes is utilized to analyze the three-dimensional oceanic energy evolution in response to Hurricane Lili’s (2002) passage. Mixed layer temperature analyses show that the Loop Current cooled <1°C in response to the storm, in contrast to typically observed larger decreases of 3°–5°C. Correspondingly, vertical current shear associated with mixed layer currents, which is responsible for entrainment mixing of cooler water, was found to be up to 50% weaker, on average, than observed in previous studies within the directly forced region. The Loop Current, which separates the warmer, lighter Caribbean Subtropical Water from the cooler, heavier Gulf Common Water, was found to decrease in intensity by −0.18 ± 0.25 m s−1 over an approximately 10-day period within the mixed layer. Contrary to previous ocean response studies, which have assumed approximately horizontally homogeneous ocean structure prior to storm passage, a kinetic energy loss of 5.8 ± 6.4 kJ m−2, or approximately −1 wind stress-scaled energy unit, was observed. By examining near-surface currents derived from satellite altimetry data, the Loop Current is found to vary similarly in magnitude over such time scales, suggesting storm-generated energy is rapidly removed by the preexisting Loop Current. In a future study, the simulated mixed layer evolution to a Hurricane Lili–like storm within an idealized preexisting baroclinic current is analyzed to help understand the complex air–sea interaction and resulting energetic response.

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Eric W. Uhlhorn and Lynn K. Shay

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In this second part of a two-part study, details of the upper-ocean response within an idealized baroclinic current to a translating tropical cyclone are examined in a series of nonlinear, reduced-gravity numerical simulations. Based on observations obtained as part of a joint NOAA–National Science Foundation (NSF) experiment in Hurricane Lili (2002), the preexisting ocean mass and momentum fields are initialized with a Gulf of Mexico Loop Current–like jet, which is subsequently forced by a vortex whose wind stress field approximates that observed in the Lili experiments. Because of 1) favorable coupling between the wind stress and preexisting current vectors, and 2) wind-driven currents flowing across the large horizontal pressure gradient, wind energy transfer to the mixed layer can be more efficient in such a regime as compared to the case of an initially horizontally homogeneous ocean. However, nearly all energy is removed by advection and wave flux by two local inertial periods after storm passage, consistent with the observational results. Experiments are performed to quantify differences in one-dimensional and three-dimensional linearized approximations to the full model equations. In addition, sensitivity experiments to variations in the initial geostrophic current structure are performed to develop a parameter space over which a significant energy response could optimally be observed.

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