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Verena Hormann
,
Rick Lumpkin
, and
Renellys C. Perez

Abstract

A generalized method is developed to determine the position of the Atlantic northern cold tongue front across its zonal extent from satellite sea surface temperature (SST) data. Previous approaches estimated the frontal position subjectively or individually, calling for a more objective technique that is suitable for large datasets. The developed methodology is based on a median frontal SST, and associated positional uncertainties are on the order of 0.3° latitude for the period 1998–2011. Frontal characteristics are generally consistent with tropical instability waves (TIWs) and interannual variations are large. Application to drifter observations shows how the new methodology can be used to better understand circulation features near the northern cold tongue front. A drifter pair deployed on the eastern side of a passing TIW crest north of the front revealed that the trajectories of the drifters were clearly influenced by the shape of the front and they did not cross the front, but rather stayed close together about 2.5° north of the front. In a more complete analysis using all available drifters near the Atlantic northern cold tongue front, only about 12% of the trajectories crossed the front. Analyses in an along- and cross-frontal frame of reference complement isopycnal coordinate mapping, and tropical Atlantic drifter velocities averaged in frontal coordinates indicate a broadened shear zone between the northern branch of the South Equatorial Current and North Equatorial Countercurrent as well as meridional convergence near the front.

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Verena Hormann
,
Luca R. Centurioni
, and
Gilles Reverdin

Abstract

Salinity measurements from drifters constitute an important in situ dataset for the calibration and validation of the sea surface salinity satellite missions. A total of 114 satellite-tracked salinity drifters were deployed within the framework of the first Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS) experiment in the subtropical North Atlantic focusing on the period August 2012–April 2014. In this study, a subset of 83 drifters, which provided useful salinity measurements in the central SPURS region from a few weeks to more than one year, is evaluated and an ad hoc quality-control procedure based on previously published work and the new observations is described. It was found that the sampling algorithm of the drifters introduces a predominantly fresh bias in the noise level of the salinity data, probably caused by the presence of air bubbles within the measuring cell. Since such noise is difficult to eliminate using statistical methods, extensive editing was done manually instead. Such quality-control procedures cannot be routinely applied to the real-time data stream from the drifters. Therefore, a revision of the sampling algorithm of the drifter’s salinity sensor is needed. Comparisons of the drifter’s salinity measurements with independent datasets further indicate that the sensor can provide reliable observations for up to one year. Finally, little evidence was found that the quality of the drifter’s salinity measurements depends on the presence of the drogue.

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Sebastian Essink
,
Verena Hormann
,
Luca R. Centurioni
, and
Amala Mahadevan

Abstract

A cluster of 45 drifters deployed in the Bay of Bengal is tracked for a period of four months. Pair dispersion statistics, from observed drifter trajectories and simulated trajectories based on surface geostrophic velocity, are analyzed as a function of drifter separation and time. Pair dispersion suggests nonlocal dynamics at submesoscales of 1–20 km, likely controlled by the energetic mesoscale eddies present during the observations. Second-order velocity structure functions and their Helmholtz decomposition, however, suggest local dispersion and divergent horizontal flow at scales below 20 km. This inconsistency cannot be explained by inertial oscillations alone, as has been reported in recent studies, and is likely related to other nondispersive processes that impact structure functions but do not enter pair dispersion statistics. At scales comparable to the deformation radius L D , which is approximately 60 km, we find dynamics in agreement with Richardson’s law and observe local dispersion in both pair dispersion statistics and second-order velocity structure functions.

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Sebastian Essink
,
Verena Hormann
,
Luca R. Centurioni
, and
Amala Mahadevan

Abstract

Horizontal kinematic properties, such as vorticity, divergence, and lateral strain rate, are estimated from drifter clusters using three approaches. At submesoscale horizontal length scales O ( 1 10 ) km , kinematic properties become as large as planetary vorticity f, but challenging to observe because they evolve on short time scales O ( hours to days ) . By simulating surface drifters in a model flow field, we quantify the sources of uncertainty in the kinematic property calculations due to the deformation of cluster shape. Uncertainties arise primarily due to (i) violation of the linear estimation methods and (ii) aliasing of unresolved scales. Systematic uncertainties (iii) due to GPS errors, are secondary but can become as large as (i) and (ii) when aspect ratios are small. Ideal cluster parameters (number of drifters, length scale, and aspect ratio) are determined and error functions estimated empirically and theoretically. The most robust method—a two-dimensional, linear least squares fit—is applied to the first few days of a drifter dataset from the Bay of Bengal. Application of the length scale and aspect-ratio criteria minimizes errors (i) and (ii), and reduces the total number of clusters and so computational cost. The drifter-estimated kinematic properties map out a cyclonic mesoscale eddy with a surface, submesoscale fronts at its perimeter. Our analyses suggest methodological guidance for computing the two-dimensional kinematic properties in submesoscale flows, given the recently increasing quantity and quality of drifter observations, while also highlighting challenges and limitations.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to provide insights and guidance for computing horizontal velocity gradients from clusters (i.e., three or more) of Lagrangian surface ocean drifters. The uncertainty in velocity gradient estimates depends strongly on the shape deformation of drifter clusters by the ocean currents. We propose criteria for drifter cluster length scales and aspect ratios to reduce uncertainties and develop ways of estimating the magnitude of the resulting errors. The findings are applied to a real ocean dataset from the Bay of Bengal.

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Peter Brandt
,
Verena Hormann
,
Arne Körtzinger
,
Martin Visbeck
,
Gerd Krahmann
,
Lothar Stramma
,
Rick Lumpkin
, and
Claudia Schmid

Abstract

Changes in the ventilation of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) of the tropical North Atlantic are studied using oceanographic data from 18 research cruises carried out between 28.5° and 23°W during 1999–2008 as well as historical data referring to the period 1972–85. In the core of the OMZ at about 400-m depth, a highly significant oxygen decrease of about 15 μmol kg−1 is found between the two periods. During the same time interval, the salinity at the oxygen minimum increased by about 0.1. Above the core of the OMZ, within the central water layer, oxygen decreased too, but salinity changed only slightly or even decreased. The scatter in the local oxygen–salinity relations decreased from the earlier to the later period suggesting a reduced filamentation due to mesoscale eddies and/or zonal jets acting on the background gradients. Here it is suggested that latitudinally alternating zonal jets with observed amplitudes of a few centimeters per second in the depth range of the OMZ contribute to the ventilation of the OMZ. A conceptual model of the ventilation of the OMZ is used to corroborate the hypothesis that changes in the strength of zonal jets affect mean oxygen levels in the OMZ. According to the model, a weakening of zonal jets, which is in general agreement with observed hydrographic evidences, is associated with a reduction of the mean oxygen levels that could significantly contribute to the observed deoxygenation of the North Atlantic OMZ.

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Kristin L. Zeiden
,
Daniel L. Rudnick
,
Jennifer A. MacKinnon
,
Verena Hormann
, and
Luca Centurioni

Abstract

Wake eddies are important to physical oceanographers because they tend to dominate current variability in the lee of islands. However, their generation and evolution has been difficult to study due to their intermittency. In this study, 2 years of observations from Surface Velocity Program (SVP) drifters are used to calculate relative vorticity (ζ) and diffusivity (κ) in the wake generated by westward flow past the archipelago of Palau. Over 2 years, 19 clusters of five SVP drifters ∼5 km in scale were released from the north end of the archipelago. Out of these, 15 were entrained in the wake. We compare estimates of ζ from both velocity spatial gradients (least squares fitting) and velocity time series (wavelet analysis). Drifters in the wake were entrained in either energetic submesoscale eddies with initial ζ up to 6f, or island-scale recirculation and large-scale lateral shear with ζ ∼ 0.1f. Here f is the local Coriolis frequency. Mean wake vorticity is initially 1.5f but decreases inversely with time (t), while mean cluster scale (L) increases as Lt. Kinetic energy measured by the drifters is comparatively constant. This suggests ζ is predominantly a function of scale, confirmed by binning enstrophy (ζ 2) by inverse scale. We find κL 4/3 and upper and lower bounds for L(t) are given by t 3/2 and t 1/2, respectively. These trends are predicted by a model of dispersion due to lateral shear. We argue the observed time dependence of cluster scale and vorticity suggest island-scale shear controls eddy growth in the wake of Palau.

Restricted access
Thilo Klenz
,
Harper L. Simmons
,
Luca Centurioni
,
Jonathan M. Lilly
,
Jeffrey J. Early
, and
Verena Hormann

Abstract

The Minimet is a Lagrangian surface drifter measuring near-surface winds in situ. Ten Minimets were deployed in the Iceland Basin over the course of two field seasons in 2018 and 2019. We compared Minimet wind measurements to coincident ship winds from the R/V Armstrong meteorology package and to hourly ERA5 reanalysis winds and found that the Minimets accurately captured wind variability across a variety of time scales. Comparisons between the ship, Minimets, and ERA5 winds point to significant discrepancies between the in situ wind measurements and ERA5, with the most reasonable explanation being related to spatial offsets of small-scale storm structures in the reanalysis model. After a general assessment of the Minimet performance, we compare estimates of wind power input in the near-inertial band using the Minimet winds and their measured drift to those using ERA5 winds and the Minimet drift. Minimet-derived near-inertial wind power estimates exceed those from Minimet drift combined with ERA5 winds by about 42%. The results highlight the importance of accurately capturing small-scale, high-frequency wind events and suggest that in situ Minimet measurements are beneficial for accurately quantifying near-inertial wind work on the ocean.

Significance Statement

In this study we introduce a novel, freely drifting wind measurement platform, the Minimet. After an initial validation of Minimet sea surface wind measurements against independent wind measurements from a nearby research vessel, we investigate their utility in context of the near-inertial work done by the wind on the ocean, which is important for the ocean’s energy budget. We find Minimet near-inertial wind work estimates exceed those estimated using winds from a state-of-the-art wind product by 42%. Our results indicate that capturing storm events happening on time scales less than 12 h is crucial for accurately quantifying near-inertial wind work on the ocean, making wind measurements from platforms such as the Minimet invaluable for these analyses.

Open access
Hemantha W. Wijesekera
,
Emily Shroyer
,
Amit Tandon
,
M. Ravichandran
,
Debasis Sengupta
,
S. U. P. Jinadasa
,
Harindra J. S. Fernando
,
Neeraj Agrawal
,
K. Arulananthan
,
G. S. Bhat
,
Mark Baumgartner
,
Jared Buckley
,
Luca Centurioni
,
Patrick Conry
,
J. Thomas Farrar
,
Arnold L. Gordon
,
Verena Hormann
,
Ewa Jarosz
,
Tommy G. Jensen
,
Shaun Johnston
,
Matthias Lankhorst
,
Craig M. Lee
,
Laura S. Leo
,
Iossif Lozovatsky
,
Andrew J. Lucas
,
Jennifer Mackinnon
,
Amala Mahadevan
,
Jonathan Nash
,
Melissa M. Omand
,
Hieu Pham
,
Robert Pinkel
,
Luc Rainville
,
Sanjiv Ramachandran
,
Daniel L. Rudnick
,
Sutanu Sarkar
,
Uwe Send
,
Rashmi Sharma
,
Harper Simmons
,
Kathleen M. Stafford
,
Louis St. Laurent
,
Karan Venayagamoorthy
,
Ramasamy Venkatesan
,
William J. Teague
,
David W. Wang
,
Amy F. Waterhouse
,
Robert Weller
, and
Caitlin B. Whalen

Abstract

Air–Sea Interactions in the Northern Indian Ocean (ASIRI) is an international research effort (2013–17) aimed at understanding and quantifying coupled atmosphere–ocean dynamics of the Bay of Bengal (BoB) with relevance to Indian Ocean monsoons. Working collaboratively, more than 20 research institutions are acquiring field observations coupled with operational and high-resolution models to address scientific issues that have stymied the monsoon predictability. ASIRI combines new and mature observational technologies to resolve submesoscale to regional-scale currents and hydrophysical fields. These data reveal BoB’s sharp frontal features, submesoscale variability, low-salinity lenses and filaments, and shallow mixed layers, with relatively weak turbulent mixing. Observed physical features include energetic high-frequency internal waves in the southern BoB, energetic mesoscale and submesoscale features including an intrathermocline eddy in the central BoB, and a high-resolution view of the exchange along the periphery of Sri Lanka, which includes the 100-km-wide East India Coastal Current (EICC) carrying low-salinity water out of the BoB and an adjacent, broad northward flow (∼300 km wide) that carries high-salinity water into BoB during the northeast monsoon. Atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) observations during the decaying phase of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) permit the study of multiscale atmospheric processes associated with non-MJO phenomena and their impacts on the marine boundary layer. Underway analyses that integrate observations and numerical simulations shed light on how air–sea interactions control the ABL and upper-ocean processes.

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Emily Shroyer
,
Amit Tandon
,
Debasis Sengupta
,
Harindra J. S. Fernando
,
Andrew J. Lucas
,
J. Thomas Farrar
,
Rajib Chattopadhyay
,
Simon de Szoeke
,
Maria Flatau
,
Adam Rydbeck
,
Hemantha Wijesekera
,
Michael McPhaden
,
Hyodae Seo
,
Aneesh Subramanian
,
R Venkatesan
,
Jossia Joseph
,
S. Ramsundaram
,
Arnold L. Gordon
,
Shannon M. Bohman
,
Jaynise Pérez
,
Iury T. Simoes-Sousa
,
Steven R. Jayne
,
Robert E. Todd
,
G. S. Bhat
,
Matthias Lankhorst
,
Tamara Schlosser
,
Katherine Adams
,
S. U. P Jinadasa
,
Manikandan Mathur
,
M. Mohapatra
,
E. Pattabhi Rama Rao
,
A. K. Sahai
,
Rashmi Sharma
,
Craig Lee
,
Luc Rainville
,
Deepak Cherian
,
Kerstin Cullen
,
Luca R. Centurioni
,
Verena Hormann
,
Jennifer MacKinnon
,
Uwe Send
,
Arachaporn Anutaliya
,
Amy Waterhouse
,
Garrett S. Black
,
Jeremy A. Dehart
,
Kaitlyn M. Woods
,
Edward Creegan
,
Gad Levy
,
Lakshmi H. Kantha
, and
Bulusu Subrahmanyam

Abstract

In the Bay of Bengal, the warm, dry boreal spring concludes with the onset of the summer monsoon and accompanying southwesterly winds, heavy rains, and variable air–sea fluxes. Here, we summarize the 2018 monsoon onset using observations collected through the multinational Monsoon Intraseasonal Oscillations in the Bay of Bengal (MISO-BoB) program between the United States, India, and Sri Lanka. MISO-BoB aims to improve understanding of monsoon intraseasonal variability, and the 2018 field effort captured the coupled air–sea response during a transition from active-to-break conditions in the central BoB. The active phase of the ∼20-day research cruise was characterized by warm sea surface temperature (SST > 30°C), cold atmospheric outflows with intermittent heavy rainfall, and increasing winds (from 2 to 15 m s−1). Accumulated rainfall exceeded 200 mm with 90% of precipitation occurring during the first week. The following break period was both dry and clear, with persistent 10–12 m s−1 wind and evaporation of 0.2 mm h−1. The evolving environmental state included a deepening ocean mixed layer (from ∼20 to 50 m), cooling SST (by ∼1°C), and warming/drying of the lower to midtroposphere. Local atmospheric development was consistent with phasing of the large-scale intraseasonal oscillation. The upper ocean stores significant heat in the BoB, enough to maintain SST above 29°C despite cooling by surface fluxes and ocean mixing. Comparison with reanalysis indicates biases in air–sea fluxes, which may be related to overly cool prescribed SST. Resolution of such biases offers a path toward improved forecasting of transition periods in the monsoon.

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