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Markus A. Janout and Yueng-Djern Lenn

Abstract

The Arctic continental shelf seas hold a globally significant source of freshwater that impacts Arctic Ocean stratification, circulation, and climate. This freshwater can be injected below the surface mixed layer by intense turbulent kinetic energy dissipation events, as resolved by Laptev Sea microstructure observations. The tides provide a major source of energy that can be dissipated and hence drive diapycnal mixing in the Laptev Sea. Multiyear ADCP mooring records from locations across the shelf reveal that semidiurnal tides are dominated by the M2 and S2 constituents, with the largest amplitudes on the outer shelf. Throughout most of the shelf, tides are clockwise polarized and sheared by stratification, as characteristic near the M2 critical latitude. Interannual variations of the tidal and shear structures on the inner shelf are mainly determined by the stratification-setting Lena River freshwater plume. In all locations, M2 tides are enhanced under sea ice, and therefore changes in the seasonal ice cover may lead to changes in tides and water column structure. The main conclusions of this study are that (i) tides play a comparatively greater role year-round on the outer shelf relative to the inner shelf; (ii) a sea ice reduction will overall decrease the predictability of the currents, especially on the inner shelf; and (iii) the freshwater distribution directly impacts diapycnal mixing by setting the vertical tidal structure. These combined effects imply that future sea ice loss will increase the variability and vertical mixing of freshwater, particularly on the inner shelf, where the Lena River first enters the Laptev Sea.

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Yueng-Djern Lenn and Teresa K. Chereskin

Abstract

Largely zonal winds in the Southern Ocean drive an equatorward Ekman transport that constitutes the shallowest limb of the meridional overturning circulation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Despite its importance, there have been no direct observations of the open ocean Ekman balance in the Southern Ocean until now. Using high-resolution repeat observations of upper-ocean velocity in Drake Passage, a mean Ekman spiral is resolved and Ekman transport is computed. The mean Ekman currents decay in amplitude and rotate anticyclonically with depth, penetrating to ∼100-m depth, above the base of the annual mean mixed layer at 120 m. The rotation depth scale exceeds the e-folding scale of the speed by about a factor of 3, resulting in a current spiral that is compressed relative to predictions from Ekman theory. Transport estimated from the observed currents is mostly equatorward and in good agreement with the Ekman transport computed from four different gridded wind products. The mean temperature of the Ekman layer is not distinguishable from temperature at the surface. Turbulent eddy viscosities inferred from Ekman theory and a direct estimate of the time-averaged stress were O(102–103) cm2 s−1. The latter calculation results in a profile of eddy viscosity that decreases in magnitude with depth and a time-averaged stress that is not parallel to the time-averaged vertical shear. The compression of the Ekman spiral and the nonparallel shear–stress relation are likely due to time averaging over the cycling of the stratification in response to diurnal buoyancy fluxes, although the action of surface waves and the oceanic response to high-frequency wind variability may also contribute.

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Yueng-Djern Lenn, Teresa K. Chereskin, and Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Accurately resolving the mean Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is essential for determining Southern Ocean eddy fluxes that are important to the global meridional overturning circulation. Previous estimates of the mean ACC have been limited by the paucity of Southern Ocean observations. A new estimate of the mean surface ACC in Drake Passage is presented that combines sea surface height anomalies measured by satellite altimetry with a recent dataset of repeat high-resolution acoustic Doppler current profiler observations. A mean streamfunction (surface height field), objectively mapped from the mean currents, is used to validate two recent dynamic height climatologies. The new streamfunction has narrower and stronger ACC fronts separated by quiescent zones of much weaker flow, thereby improving on the resolution of ACC fronts observed in the other climatologies. Distinct streamlines can be associated with particular ACC fronts and tracked in time-dependent maps of dynamic height. This analysis shows that varying degrees of topographic control are evident in the preferred paths of the ACC fronts through Drake Passage.

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Benjamin I. Barton, Yueng-Djern Lenn, and Camille Lique

Abstract

Barents Sea Water (BSW) is formed from Atlantic Water that is cooled through atmospheric heat loss and freshened through seasonal sea ice melt. In the eastern Barents Sea, the BSW and fresher, colder Arctic Water meet at the surface along the Polar Front (PF). Despite its importance in setting the northern limit of BSW ventilation, the PF has been poorly documented, mostly eluding detection by observational surveys that avoid seasonal sea ice. In this study, satellite sea surface temperature (SST) observations are used in addition to a temperature and salinity climatology to examine the location and structure of the PF and characterize its variability over the period 1985–2016. It is shown that the PF is independent of the position of the sea ice edge and is a shelf slope current constrained by potential vorticity. The main driver of interannual variability in SST is the variability of the Atlantic Water temperature, which has significantly increased since 2005. The SST gradient associated with the PF has also increased after 2005, preventing sea ice from extending south of the front during winter in recent years. The disappearance of fresh, seasonal sea ice melt south of the PF has led to a significant increase in BSW salinity and density. As BSW forms the majority of Arctic Intermediate Water, changes to BSW properties may have far-reaching impacts for Arctic Ocean circulation and climate.

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Yueng-Djern Lenn, Teresa K. Chereskin, Janet Sprintall, and Julie L. McClean

Abstract

The authors present new estimates of the eddy momentum and heat fluxes from repeated high-resolution upper-ocean velocity and temperature observations in Drake Passage and interpret their role in the regional Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) momentum balance. The observations span 7 yr and are compared to eddy fluxes estimated from a 3-yr set of output archived from an eddy-resolving global Parallel Ocean Program (POP) numerical simulation. In both POP and the observations, the stream-averaged cross-stream eddy momentum fluxes correspond to forcing consistent with both a potential vorticity flux into the axis of the Subantarctic Front (SAF) and a sharpening of all three main ACC fronts through Drake Passage. Further, the POP analysis indicates that the mean momentum advection terms reflect the steering of the mean ACC fronts and are not fully balanced by the eddy momentum forcing, which instead impacts the strength and number of ACC fronts.

The comparison between POP and observed eddy heat fluxes was less favorable partly because of model bias in the water mass stratification. Observed cross-stream eddy heat fluxes are generally surface intensified and poleward in the ACC fronts, with values up to approximately −290 ± 80 kW m−2 in the Polar and Southern ACC Fronts. Interfacial form stresses FT, derived from observed eddy heat fluxes in the SAF, show little depth dependence below the Ekman layer. Although FT appears to balance the surface wind stress directly, the estimated interfacial form stress divergence is only an order of magnitude greater than the eddy momentum forcing in the SAF. Thus, although the eddy momentum forcing is of secondary importance in the momentum balance, its effect is not entirely negligible.

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Liam Brannigan, Yueng-Djern Lenn, Tom P. Rippeth, Elaine McDonagh, Teresa K. Chereskin, and Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Observations are used to evaluate a simple theoretical model for the generation of near-inertial shear spikes at the base of the open ocean mixed layer when the upper ocean displays a two-layer structure. The model predicts that large changes in shear squared can be produced by the alignment of the wind and shear vectors. A climatology of stratification and shear variance in Drake Passage is presented, which shows that these assumptions are most applicable to summer, fall, and spring but are not highly applicable to winter. Temperature, salinity, and velocity data from a high spatial resolution cruise in Drake Passage show that the model does not predict all large changes in shear variance; the model is most effective at predicting changes in shear squared when it arises owing to near-inertial wind-driven currents without requiring a rotating resonant wind stress. The model is also more effective where there is a uniform mixed layer above a strongly stratified transition layer. Rotary spectral and statistical analysis of an additional 242 Drake Passage transects from 1999 to 2011 confirmed the presence of this shear-spiking mechanism, particularly in summer, spring, and fall when stratification is stronger.

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Jeff A. Polton, Yueng-Djern Lenn, Shane Elipot, Teresa K. Chereskin, and Janet Sprintall

Abstract

Ekman's theory of the wind-driven ocean surface boundary layer assumes a constant eddy viscosity and predicts that the current rotates with depth at the same rate as it decays in amplitude. Despite its wide acceptance, Ekman current spirals are difficult to observe. This is primarily because the spirals are small signals that are easily masked by ocean variability and cannot readily be separated from the geostrophic component. This study presents a method for estimating ageostrophic currents from shipboard acoustic Doppler current profiler data in Drake Passage and finds that observations are consistent with Ekman's theory. By taking into account the sampling distributions of wind stress and ageostrophic velocity, the authors find eddy viscosity values in the range of 0.08–0.12 m2 s−1 that reconcile observations with the classic theory in Drake Passage. The eddy viscosity value that most frequently reconciles observations with the classic theory is 0.094 m2 s−1, corresponding to an Ekman depth scale of 39 m.

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Yueng-Djern Lenn, Tom P. Rippeth, Chris P. Old, Sheldon Bacon, Igor Polyakov, Vladimir Ivanov, and Jens Hölemann

Abstract

Vertical mixing in the bottom boundary layer and pycnocline of the Laptev Sea is evaluated from a rapidly sampled 12-h time series of microstructure temperature, conductivity, and shear observations collected under 100% sea ice during October 2008. The bottom boundary turbulent kinetic energy dissipation was observed to be enhanced (ϵ ∼ 10−4 W m−3) beyond background levels (ϵ ∼ 10−6 W m−3), extending up to 10 m above the seabed when simulated tidal currents were directed on slope. Upward heat fluxes into the halocline-class waters along the Laptev Sea seabed peaked at ∼4–8 W m−2, averaging out to ∼2 W m−2 over the 12-h sampling period. In the Laptev Sea pycnocline, an isolated 2-h episode of intense dissipation (ϵ ∼ 10−3 W m−3) and vertical diffusivities was observed that was not due to a localized wind event. Observations from an acoustic Doppler current meter moored in the central Laptev Sea near the M 2 critical latitude are consistent with a previous model in which mixing episodes are driven by an enhancement of the pycnocline shear resulting from the alignment of the rotating pycnocline shear vector with the under-ice stress vector. Upward cross-pycnocline heat fluxes from the Arctic halocline peaked at ∼54 W m−2, resulting in a 12-h average of ∼12 W m−2. These results highlight the intermittent nature of Arctic shelf sea mixing processes and how these processes can impact the transformation of Arctic Ocean water masses. The observations also clearly demonstrate that absence or presence of sea ice profoundly affects the availability of near-inertial kinetic energy to drive vertical mixing on the Arctic shelves.

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Igor V. Polyakov, Vladimir A. Alexeev, Igor M. Ashik, Sheldon Bacon, Agnieszka Beszczynska-Möller, Eddy C. Carmack, Igor A. Dmitrenko, Louis Fortier, Jean-Claude Gascard, Edmond Hansen, Jens Hölemann, Vladimir V. Ivanov, Takashi Kikuchi, Sergey Kirillov, Yueng-Djern Lenn, Fiona A. McLaughlin, Jan Piechura, Irina Repina, Leonid A. Timokhov, Waldemar Walczowski, and Rebecca Woodgate

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