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Chao Huang and Yongsheng Xu

Abstract

The global dissipation caused by bottom boundary layer drag is one of the major pathways for the consumption of kinetic energy in the deep ocean. However, the spatial distribution and global integral of the drag dissipation are still debatable. This paper presents an updated estimate of the dissipation rate, using the barotropic component of surface geostrophic currents and 632 in situ velocity measurements. Also, the seafloor roughness is proposed as a parameter of drag efficiency in the parameterized method. The results provide a map of the drag dissipation rate with a global integral of ~0.26 TW. Approximately 66% of this dissipation occurs in the Southern Ocean, which is consistent with the proportion of wind power input into this region. Building upon the work in previous studies on the bottom boundary layer drag, more long-period observations are used, eliminating the influence of the baroclinic contribution to the surface geostrophic currents in the construction of the bottom velocity, and taking topographic roughness into account. The estimates have implications for the maintenance of density structure in the deep ocean and understanding of the kinetic energy budget.

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Yongsheng Xu and Lee-Lueng Fu

Abstract

The wavenumber spectra of sea surface height from satellite altimeter observations have revealed complex spatial variability that cannot be explained by a universal theory of mesoscale turbulence. Near the edge of the core regions of high eddy energy, agreement is observed with the prediction of the surface quasigeostrophic (SQG) turbulence theory, which has fundamental differences from that of the traditional quasigeostrophic (QG) turbulence theory. In the core regions of high eddy energy, the spectra are consistent with frontogenesis that is not fully accounted for by the SQG theory. However, the observations in the vast ocean interior of low eddy energy exhibit substantial differences from the predictions of existing theories of oceanic mesoscale turbulence. The spectra in these regions may reflect the ocean’s response to short-scale atmospheric forcing and air–sea interaction. The observations presented in this paper serve as a test bed for new theories and ocean general circulation models.

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Yongsheng Xu and Lee-Lueng Fu

Abstract

The wavenumber spectrum of sea surface height (SSH) observed by satellite altimetry was analyzed by Xu and Fu. The spectral shape in the wavelength range of 70–250 km was approximated by a power law, representing a regime governed by geostrophic turbulence theories. The effects of altimeter instrument noise were assumed insignificant at wavelengths longer than 70 km. The authors reexamined the assumption in the study. Using nearly simultaneous observations made by Jason-1 and Jason-2 during their cross-calibration phase, this study found that the white noise level of altimetry measurement was best estimated from the spectral values at wavelengths from 25 to 35 km. After removing a white noise level based on such estimate from the SSH spectrum, the spectral slope values changed significantly over most of the oceans. A key finding is that the spectral slopes are generally steeper than k −2 (k is wavenumber) poleward of the 20° latitudes, where flatter spectral slopes in some regions have previously caused problems for dynamic interpretations. The new results indicate that the spectral slopes in the core regions of the major ocean current systems have values between the original geostrophic turbulence theory and the surface quasigeostrophic theory. The near k −4 spectrum suggests that the sea surface height variability at these wavelengths in the high eddy energy regions might be governed by frontogenesis.

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Hongjie Li and Yongsheng Xu

Abstract

Stratified geostrophic turbulence theory predicts an inverse energy cascade for the barotropic (BT) mode. Satellite altimetry has revealed a net inverse cascade in the baroclinic (BC) mode. Here the spatial variabilities of BT and BC kinetic energy fluxes in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) were investigated using ECCO2 data, which synthesize satellite data and in situ measurements with an eddy-permitting general circulation model containing realistic bathymetry and wind forcing. The BT and BC inverse kinetic energy cascades both reveal complex spatial variations that could not be explained fully by classical arguments. For example, the BC injection scales match better with most unstable scales than with the first-mode deformation scales, but the opposite is true for the BT mode. In addition, the BT and BC arrest scales do not follow the Rhines scale well in terms of spatial variation, but show better consistency with their own energy-containing scales. The reverse cascade of the BT and BC modes was found related to their EKE, and better correlation was found between the BT inverse cascade and barotropization. Speculations of the findings were proposed; however, further observations and modeling experiments are needed to test these interpretations. Spectral flux anisotropy exhibits a feature associated with oceanic jets that is consistent with classical expectations. Specifically, the spectral flux along the along-stream direction remains negative at scales up to that of the studied domain (~2000 km), while that in the perpendicular direction becomes positive close to the scale of the width of a typical jet.

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Yongsheng Xu, D. Randolph Watts, and Jae-Hun Park

Abstract

In the Japan/East Sea, energetic high-frequency large-scale barotropic motions are shown to lead to large aliasing errors in satellite altimetry observations. The combined aliasing from several neighboring and crossing tracks produces artificial mesoscale signals in altimeter-mapped products, significantly changing the map interpretation. The alias can be well suppressed by subtracting the large-scale barotropic motions observed by bottom pressure sensors. By using coastal tide gauge data in the Japan/East Sea, about 78% of the alias source variance can be removed, which offers an alternative way to suppress the alias for other time intervals without bottom pressure measurements.

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