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R-C. Lien, E. A. D'Asaro, and M. J. McPhaden

Abstract

In the shear stratified flow below the surface mixed layer in the central equatorial Pacific, energetic near-N (buoyancy frequency) internal waves and turbulence mixing were observed by the combination of a Lagrangian neutrally buoyant float and Eulerian mooring sensors. The turbulence kinetic energy dissipation rate ϵ and the thermal variance diffusion rate χ were inferred from Lagrangian frequency spectral levels of vertical acceleration and thermal change rate, respectively, in the turbulence inertial subrange. Variables exhibiting a nighttime enhancement include the vertical velocity variance (dominated by near-N waves), ϵ, and χ. Observed high levels of turbulence mixing in this low-Ri (Richardson number) layer, the so-called deep-cycle layer, are consistent with previous microstructure measurements. The Lagrangian float encountered a shear instability event. Near-N waves grew exponentially with a 1-h timescale followed by enhanced turbulence kinetic energy and strong dissipation rate. The event supports the scenario that in the deep-cycle layer shear instability may induce growing internal waves that break into turbulence. Superimposed on few large shear-instability events were background westward-propagating near-N waves. The floats' ability to monitor turbulence mixing and internal waves was demonstrated by comparison with previous microstructure measurements and with Eulerian measurements.

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R-C. Lien, B. Sanford, and W-T. Tsai

Abstract

Measurements of small-scale vorticity, turbulence velocity, and dissipation rates of turbulence kinetic energy ε were taken in a littoral fetch-limited surface wave boundary layer. Drifters deployed on the surface formed convergence streaks with ∼1-m horizontal spacing within a few minutes. In the interior, however, no organized pattern of velocity, vorticity, or turbulence mixing intensity was found at a similar horizontal spatial scale. The turbulent Langmuir number La was 0.6–1.3, much larger than the 0.3 of the typical open ocean, suggesting comparable importance of wind-driven turbulence and Langmuir circulation. Observed ε are explained by the wind-driven shear turbulence. The production rate of turbulence kinetic energy associated with the vortex force is about 10−7 W kg−1, slightly smaller than that generated by the wind-driven turbulence. The rms values of the streakwise component of vorticity σ ζ|| and the vertical component of vorticity σ ζz have a similar magnitude of ∼0.02 s−1. Vertical profiles of ε, σ ζ||, and σ ζz showed a monotonic decrease from the surface. Traditionally, surface convergence streaks are regarded as signatures of Langmuir circulation. Two large-eddy simulations with and without Stokes drift were performed. Both simulations produced surface convergence streaks and vertical profiles of ε, vorticity, and velocity consistent with observations. The observations and model results suggest that the presence of surface convergence streaks does not necessarily imply the existence of Langmuir circulation. In a littoral surface boundary layer where surface waves are young, fetch-limited, and weak, and La = O(1), the turbulence mixing in the surface mixed layer is primarily due to the wind-driven shear turbulence, and convergence streaks exist with or without surface waves.

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D. R. Caldwell, R-C. Lien, J. N. Moum, and M. C. Gregg

Abstract

Although the process of restratification of the ocean surface layer at the equator following nighttime convection is similar in many ways to the process at midlatitudes, there are important differences. A composite day calculated from 15 days of consistent conditions at 140°W on the equator was compared with midlatitude observations by Brainerd and Gregg. In the depth range of 20–40 m, 1) minimum nighttime stratification was similar [N 2 of 1.2–3.2 (× 10−6 s−2) vs 0.4–1.7 (× 10−6 s−2)], 2) maximum daytime stratification was significantly larger, as might be expected from the greater surface heat input [N 2 of 8–21 (× 10−6 s−2 vs 3–7 (× 10−6 s−2)], and 3) minimum nighttime shear was similar [shear-squared was 1.4–4.6 (× 10−6 s−2) vs 0.8–1.9 (× 10−6 s−2)], but the maximum daytime shear was much larger [shear-squared of 24–41 (× 10−6 s−2) vs 3–7 (× 10−6 s−2)].

For much of the surface layer, the dominant identifiable cause of restratification in both cases was the divergence of the penetrating shortwave radiation, although at the equator the divergence of turbulent flux was important from 10 to 25 m. In both cases the divergence of vertical fluxes accounted for only 60%–70% of the restratification; relaxation of lateral gradients was probably the source for the rest. At the equator, the shear in the upper 40 m was restored in the daytime by turbulent transport of momentum injected by the wind.

In the region convectively mixed at night, turbulence decayed exponentially in the daytime in both cases, the e-folding time, τ ε, being 1.7 ± 0.2 h at the equator, 1.5 h in midlatitude. A dimensionless decay time, N τ ε, was 7.2–9.3 compared with 6.0 in the midlatitude case. In both cases the vertical scale of the turbulence was controlled by the Ozmidov scale, and the turbulence remained active throughout the day.

At the equator “deep-cycle” nighttime turbulence was generated in the always-stratified water at depth 60–80 m never reached by nighttime convection. Neither shear nor stratification varied significantly diurnally. The decay of this turbulence was similar to that above in that its vertical scale was controlled by the Ozmidov scale and remained active throughout the day, but the e-folding timescale was much longer, 3.5 h (N τ ε = 66–96). For the turbulence to persist this long, turbulence production must be a large proportion of ε.

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J. N. Moum, M. C. Gregg, R. C. Lien, and M. E. Carr

Abstract

Almost 1000 microstructure profiles from two separate groups on two separate ships using different instrumentation, signal processing, and calibration procedures were compared for a 3.5-day time period at 0°, 140°W and within 11 km of each other. Systematic bias in the estimates of ε is less than a factor of 2, which is within estimates of the cumulative uncertainties in the measurement of ε.

Although there is no evidence for strong gradients in mean currents, water properties, or surface meteorology, occasional hourly averages of ε differ by several factors of 10. Both groups observed periods where ε estimates exceeded those of the other group by large factors. The authors believe that the primary reason for these large differences is natural variability, which appears to be greater in the meridional direction than in the zonal direction.

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E. Kunze, J. M. Klymak, R.-C. Lien, R. Ferrari, C. M. Lee, M. A. Sundermeyer, and L. Goodman

Abstract

Submesoscale stirring contributes to the cascade of tracer variance from large to small scales. Multiple nested surveys in the summer Sargasso Sea with tow-yo and autonomous platforms captured submesoscale water-mass variability in the seasonal pycnocline at 20–60-m depths. To filter out internal waves that dominate dynamic signals on these scales, spectra for salinity anomalies on isopycnals were formed. Salinity-gradient spectra are approximately flat with slopes of −0.2 ± 0.2 over horizontal wavelengths of 0.03–10 km. While the two to three realizations presented here might be biased, more representative measurements in the literature are consistent with a nearly flat submesoscale passive tracer gradient spectrum for horizontal wavelengths in excess of 1 km. A review of mechanisms that could be responsible for a flat passive tracer gradient spectrum rules out (i) quasigeostrophic eddy stirring, (ii) atmospheric forcing through a relict submesoscale winter mixed layer structure or nocturnal mixed layer deepening, (iii) a downscale vortical-mode cascade, and (iv) horizontal diffusion because of shear dispersion of diapycnal mixing. Internal-wave horizontal strain appears to be able to explain horizontal wavenumbers of 0.1–7 cycles per kilometer (cpkm) but not the highest resolved wavenumbers (7–30 cpkm). Submesoscale subduction cannot be ruled out at these depths, though previous observations observe a flat spectrum well below subduction depths, so this seems unlikely. Primitive equation numerical modeling suggests that nonquasigeostrophic subinertial horizontal stirring can produce a flat spectrum. The last need not be limited to mode-one interior or surface Rossby wavenumbers of quasigeostrophic theory but may have a broaderband spectrum extending to smaller horizontal scales associated with frontogenesis and frontal instabilities as well as internal waves.

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D. A. Cherian, D. B. Whitt, R. M. Holmes, R.-C. Lien, S. D. Bachman, and W. G. Large

Abstract

The equatorial Pacific cold tongue is a site of large heat absorption by the ocean. This heat uptake is enhanced by a daily cycle of shear turbulence beneath the mixed layer—“deep-cycle turbulence”—that removes heat from the sea surface and deposits it in the upper flank of the Equatorial Undercurrent. Deep-cycle turbulence results when turbulence is triggered daily in sheared and stratified flow that is marginally stable (gradient Richardson number Ri ≈ 0.25). Deep-cycle turbulence has been observed on numerous occasions in the cold tongue at 0°, 140°W, and may be modulated by tropical instability waves (TIWs). Here we use a primitive equation regional simulation of the cold tongue to show that deep-cycle turbulence may also occur off the equator within TIW cold cusps where the flow is marginally stable. In the cold cusp, preexisting equatorial zonal shear u z is enhanced by horizontal vortex stretching near the equator, and subsequently modified by horizontal vortex tilting terms to generate meridional shear υ z off of the equator. Parameterized turbulence in the sheared flow of the cold cusp is triggered daily by the descent of the surface mixing layer associated with the weakening of the stabilizing surface buoyancy flux in the afternoon. Observational evidence for off-equatorial deep-cycle turbulence is restricted to a few CTD casts, which, when combined with shear from shipboard ADCP data, suggest the presence of marginally stable flow in TIW cold cusps. This study motivates further observational campaigns to characterize the modulation of deep-cycle turbulence by TIWs both on and off the equator.

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E.A. D'Asaro, P. G. Black, L. R. Centurioni, Y.-T. Chang, S. S. Chen, R. C. Foster, H. C. Graber, P. Harr, V. Hormann, R.-C. Lien, I.-I. Lin, T. B. Sanford, T.-Y. Tang, and C.-C. Wu

Tropical cyclones (TCs) change the ocean by mixing deeper water into the surface layers, by the direct air–sea exchange of moisture and heat from the sea surface, and by inducing currents, surface waves, and waves internal to the ocean. In turn, the changed ocean influences the intensity of the TC, primarily through the action of surface waves and of cooler surface temperatures that modify the air–sea fluxes. The Impact of Typhoons on the Ocean in the Pacific (ITOP) program made detailed measurements of three different TCs (i.e., typhoons) and their interaction with the ocean in the western Pacific. ITOP coordinated meteorological and oceanic observations from aircraft and satellites with deployments of autonomous oceanographic instruments from the aircraft and from ships. These platforms and instruments measured typhoon intensity and structure, the underlying ocean structure, and the long-term recovery of the ocean from the storms' effects with a particular emphasis on the cooling of the ocean beneath the storm and the resulting cold wake. Initial results show how different TCs create very different wakes, whose strength and properties depend most heavily on the nondimensional storm speed. The degree to which air–sea fluxes in the TC core were reduced by ocean cooling varied greatly. A warm layer formed over and capped the cold wakes within a few days, but a residual cold subsurface layer persisted for 10–30 days.

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Andrey Y. Shcherbina, Miles A. Sundermeyer, Eric Kunze, Eric D’Asaro, Gualtiero Badin, Daniel Birch, Anne-Marie E. G. Brunner-Suzuki, Jörn Callies, Brandy T. Kuebel Cervantes, Mariona Claret, Brian Concannon, Jeffrey Early, Raffaele Ferrari, Louis Goodman, Ramsey R. Harcourt, Jody M. Klymak, Craig M. Lee, M.-Pascale Lelong, Murray D. Levine, Ren-Chieh Lien, Amala Mahadevan, James C. McWilliams, M. Jeroen Molemaker, Sonaljit Mukherjee, Jonathan D. Nash, Tamay Özgökmen, Stephen D. Pierce, Sanjiv Ramachandran, Roger M. Samelson, Thomas B. Sanford, R. Kipp Shearman, Eric D. Skyllingstad, K. Shafer Smith, Amit Tandon, John R. Taylor, Eugene A. Terray, Leif N. Thomas, and James R. Ledwell

Abstract

Lateral stirring is a basic oceanographic phenomenon affecting the distribution of physical, chemical, and biological fields. Eddy stirring at scales on the order of 100 km (the mesoscale) is fairly well understood and explicitly represented in modern eddy-resolving numerical models of global ocean circulation. The same cannot be said for smaller-scale stirring processes. Here, the authors describe a major oceanographic field experiment aimed at observing and understanding the processes responsible for stirring at scales of 0.1–10 km. Stirring processes of varying intensity were studied in the Sargasso Sea eddy field approximately 250 km southeast of Cape Hatteras. Lateral variability of water-mass properties, the distribution of microscale turbulence, and the evolution of several patches of inert dye were studied with an array of shipboard, autonomous, and airborne instruments. Observations were made at two sites, characterized by weak and moderate background mesoscale straining, to contrast different regimes of lateral stirring. Analyses to date suggest that, in both cases, the lateral dispersion of natural and deliberately released tracers was O(1) m2 s–1 as found elsewhere, which is faster than might be expected from traditional shear dispersion by persistent mesoscale flow and linear internal waves. These findings point to the possible importance of kilometer-scale stirring by submesoscale eddies and nonlinear internal-wave processes or the need to modify the traditional shear-dispersion paradigm to include higher-order effects. A unique aspect of the Scalable Lateral Mixing and Coherent Turbulence (LatMix) field experiment is the combination of direct measurements of dye dispersion with the concurrent multiscale hydrographic and turbulence observations, enabling evaluation of the underlying mechanisms responsible for the observed dispersion at a new level.

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