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M. A. Merrifield

Abstract

Moored pressure, temperature, and current observations of low-frequency coastal-trapped wave (CTW) events in the Gulf of California are examined in the context of long-wave CTW theory. Mode 1 CTWs that are generated by summer tropical storms are consistent with the occurrences and propagation speeds of the observed wave events in the gulf. The mode 1 CTW generation, however, occurs farther north than observed, presumably due to insufficient wind data. The mode 1 and observed across-shelf wave structure in the gulf are similar, in that alongshelf currents are nearly depth independent in 100-m water depth, the pressure response is strongest at the coast with decay offshore and with depth, and downwelling occurs over the shelf with the amplitude of the mode 1 density response within a factor of two of the observed response. The main discrepancies between the mode 1 and observed wave structure are that the speed of the mode 1 alongshelf current increases toward the coast while the weakest observed speeds occur nearest the coast, and mode 1 cannot account for the observations of weak across-shelf phase lags in pressure, density, and alongshelf current. While frictional effects are consistent with some of the observed wave properties, frictional coupling of the first three CTW modes does not improve the model agreement with the observations. In addition to model comparisons, it is shown that temperature measurements on the Baja California peninsula shelf that are significantly correlated with the wave signal may be explained in terms of a possible wave-dissipation mechanism in the northern gulf.

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M. A. Merrifield, S. T. Merrifield, and G. T. Mitchum

Abstract

Tide gauge data are used to estimate trends in global sea level for the period from 1955 to 2007. Linear trends over 15-yr segments are computed for each tide gauge record, averaged over latitude bands, and combined to form an area-weighted global mean trend. The uncertainty of the global trend is specified as a sampling error plus a random vertical land motion component, but land motion corrections do not change the results. The average global sea level trend for the time segments centered on 1962–90 is 1.5 ± 0.5 mm yr−1 (standard error), in agreement with previous estimates of late twentieth-century sea level rise. After 1990, the global trend increases to the most recent rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm yr−1, matching estimates obtained from satellite altimetry. The acceleration is distinct from decadal variations in global sea level that have been reported in previous studies. Increased rates in the tropical and southern oceans primarily account for the acceleration. The timing of the global acceleration corresponds to similar sea level trend changes associated with upper ocean heat content and ice melt.

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M. A. Merrifield and R. T. Guza

Abstract

A limitation on the performance of complex empirical orthogonal function (CEOF) analyses in the time domain is illustrated with synthetic, noise-free, nondispersive, propagating signals. Numerical examples using a band-limited white spectrum and a simulation of costal-trapped waves sampled with an array of tide gauges, demonstrate that CEOF analysis is degraded with increasing ΔκΔχ (Δκ is the wavenumber bandwidth and Δχ is the instrument array length). A relatively wide wavenumber bandwidth [ΔκΔχ < 0(2π)] results in a significant loss of variance recovery towards the ends of the array. The CEOF method don yield an average frequency and wavenumber for the first mode, independent of ΔκΔχ, that accurately estimate the phase speed of the nondispersive propagating signal. These simple simulators indicate that modal spatial patterns from a time domain CEOF analysis of wide-banded signals should be interpreted cautiously.

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T. M. Shaun Johnston and Mark A. Merrifield

Abstract

A network of island tide gauges is used to estimate interannual geostrophic current anomalies (GCAs) in the western Pacific from 1975 to 1997. The focus of this study is the zonal component of the current averaged between 160°E and 180° and 2° to 7° north and south of the equator in the mean flow regions associated with the North Equatorial Countercurrent (NECC) and the South Equatorial Current (SEC), respectively. The tide gauge GCA estimates agree closely with similarly derived currents from TOPEX/Poseidon sea level anomalies. The GCAs in the western Pacific relate to a basin-scale adjustment associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, characterized here using empirical orthogonal functions of tide gauge and supporting sea surface temperature and heat storage data. The dominant EOF mode describes the mature phase of ENSO events and correlates (0.8) with the GCA south of the equator. The second mode describes transitions to and from ENSO events and correlates (0.9) with the GCA north of the equator. The typical scenario then is for the NECC to intensify about 6 months prior to the peak of an El Niño, to remain near mean conditions during the peak stage of El Niño, and to later weaken about 6 months following the peak. In contrast, the SEC generally weakens throughout an El Niño displaying eastward anomalies. This equatorial asymmetry in the GCAs is consistent with a similar asymmetry in the wind field over the western Pacific. The phase differences between the NECC and SEC are less apparent during La Niña events. The GCA results provide further evidence that transitional phases of ENSO are more active north than south of the equator in the warm pool region.

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N. V. Zilberman, J. M. Becker, M. A. Merrifield, and G. S. Carter

Abstract

The conversion of barotropic to baroclinic M 2 tidal energy is examined for a section of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Brazil Basin using a primitive equation model. Model runs are made with different horizontal smoothing (1.5, 6, and 15 km) applied to a 192 km × 183 km section of multibeam bathymetry to characterize the influence of topographic resolution on the model conversion rates. In all model simulations, barotropic to baroclinic conversion is highest over near- and supercritical slopes on the flanks of abyssal hills and discordant zones. From these generation sites, internal tides propagate upward and downward as tidal beams. The most energetic internal tide mode generated is mode 2, consistent with the dominant length scales of the topographic slope spectrum (50 km). The topographic smoothing significantly affects the model conversion amplitudes, with the domain-averaged conversion rate from the 1.5-km run (15.1 mW m−2) 4% and 19% higher than for the 6-km (14.5 mW m−2) and 15-km runs (12.2 mW m−2), respectively. Analytical models for internal tide generation by subcritical topography predict conversion rates with modal dependence and spatial patterns qualitatively similar to the Princeton Ocean Model (POM) and also show a decrease in conversion with smoother topography. The POM conversion rates are approximately 20% higher than the analytical estimates for all model grids, which is attributed to spatial variations in the barotropic flow and near-bottom stratification over generation sites, which are incorporated in the model but not in the analytical estimates.

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Philip R. Thompson, Mark A. Merrifield, Judith R. Wells, and Chantel M. Chang

Abstract

The rate of coastal sea level change in the northeast Pacific (NEP) has decreased in recent decades. The relative contributions to the decreased rate from remote equatorial wind stress, local longshore wind stress, and local windstress curl are examined. Regressions of sea level onto wind stress time series and comparisons between NEP and Fremantle sea levels suggest that the decreased rate in the NEP is primarily due to oceanic adjustment to strengthened trade winds along the equatorial and coastal waveguides. When taking care to account for correlations between the various wind stress time series, the roles of longshore wind stress and local windstress curl are found to be of minor importance in comparison to equatorial forcing. The predictability of decadal sea level change rates along the NEP coastline is therefore largely determined by tropical variability. In addition, the importance of accounting for regional, wind-driven sea level variations when attempting to calculate accelerations in the long-term rate of sea level rise is demonstrated.

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N. V. Zilberman, M. A. Merrifield, G. S. Carter, D. S. Luther, M. D. Levine, and T. J. Boyd

Abstract

Moored current, temperature, and conductivity measurements are used to study the temporal variability of M 2 internal tide generation above the Kaena Ridge, between the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai. The energy conversion from the barotropic to baroclinic tide measured near the ridge crest varies by a factor of 2 over the 6-month mooring deployment (0.5–1.1 W m−2). The energy flux measured just off the ridge undergoes a similar modulation as the ridge conversion. The energy conversion varies largely because of changes in the phase of the perturbation pressure, suggesting variable work done on remotely generated internal tides. During the mooring deployment, low-frequency current and stratification fluctuations occur on and off the ridge. Model simulations suggest that these variations are due to two mesoscale eddies that passed through the region. The impact of these eddies on low-mode internal tide propagation over the ridge crest is considered. It appears that eddy-related changes in stratification and perhaps cross-ridge current speed contribute to the observed phase variations in perturbation pressure and hence the variable conversion over the ridge.

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G. S. Carter, M. A. Merrifield, J. M. Becker, K. Katsumata, M. C. Gregg, D. S. Luther, M. D. Levine, T. J. Boyd, and Y. L. Firing

Abstract

A high-resolution primitive equation model simulation is used to form an energy budget for the principal semidiurnal tide (M 2) over a region of the Hawaiian Ridge from Niihau to Maui. This region includes the Kaena Ridge, one of the three main internal tide generation sites along the Hawaiian Ridge and the main study site of the Hawaii Ocean Mixing Experiment. The 0.01°–horizontal resolution simulation has a high level of skill when compared to satellite and in situ sea level observations, moored ADCP currents, and notably reasonable agreement with microstructure data. Barotropic and baroclinic energy equations are derived from the model’s sigma coordinate governing equations and are evaluated from the model simulation to form an energy budget. The M 2 barotropic tide loses 2.7 GW of energy over the study region. Of this, 163 MW (6%) is dissipated by bottom friction and 2.3 GW (85%) is converted into internal tides. Internal tide generation primarily occurs along the flanks of the Kaena Ridge and south of Niihau and Kauai. The majority of the baroclinic energy (1.7 GW) is radiated out of the model domain, while 0.45 GW is dissipated close to the generation regions. The modeled baroclinic dissipation within the 1000-m isobath for the Kaena Ridge agrees to within a factor of 2 with the area-weighted dissipation from 313 microstructure profiles. Topographic resolution is important, with the present 0.01° resolution model resulting in 20% more barotropic-to-baroclinic conversion compared to when the same analysis is performed on a 4-km resolution simulation. A simple extrapolation of these results to the entire Hawaiian Ridge is in qualitative agreement with recent estimates based on satellite altimetry data.

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Luc Rainville, T. M. Shaun Johnston, Glenn S. Carter, Mark A. Merrifield, Robert Pinkel, Peter F. Worcester, and Brian D. Dushaw

Abstract

Most of the M 2 internal tide energy generated at the Hawaiian Ridge radiates away in modes 1 and 2, but direct observation of these propagating waves is complicated by the complexity of the bathymetry at the generation region and by the presence of interference patterns. Observations from satellite altimetry, a tomographic array, and the R/P FLIP taken during the Farfield Program of the Hawaiian Ocean Mixing Experiment (HOME) are found to be in good agreement with the output of a high-resolution primitive equation model, simulating the generation and propagation of internal tides. The model shows that different modes are generated with different amplitudes along complex topography. Multiple sources produce internal tides that sum constructively and destructively as they propagate. The major generation sites can be identified using a simplified 2D idealized knife-edge ridge model. Four line sources located on the Hawaiian Ridge reproduce the interference pattern of sea surface height and energy flux density fields from the numerical model for modes 1 and 2. Waves from multiple sources and their interference pattern have to be taken into account to correctly interpret in situ observations and satellite altimetry.

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Craig M. Lee, Thomas B. Sanford, Eric Kunze, Jonathan D. Nash, Mark A. Merrifield, and Peter E. Holloway

Abstract

Full-depth velocity and density profiles taken along the 3000-m isobath characterize the semidiurnal internal tide and bottom-intensified turbulence along the Hawaiian Ridge. Observations reveal baroclinic energy fluxes of 21 ± 5 kW m−1 radiating from French Frigate Shoals, 17 ± 2.5 kW m−1 from Kauai Channel west of Oahu, and 13 ± 3.5 kW m−1 from west of Nihoa Island. Weaker fluxes of 1–4 ± 2 kW m−1 radiate from the region near Necker Island and east of Nihoa Island. Observed off-ridge energy fluxes generally agree to within a factor of 2 with those produced by a tidally forced numerical model. Average turbulent diapycnal diffusivity K is (0.5–1) × 10−4 m2 s–1 above 2000 m, increasing exponentially to 20 × 10−4 m2 s–1 near the bottom. Microstructure values agree well with those inferred from a finescale internal wave-based parameterization. A linear relationship between the vertically integrated energy flux and vertically integrated turbulent dissipation rate implies that dissipative length scales for the radiating internal tide exceed 1000 km.

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