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Kun Liu and Zhongxiang Zhao

Abstract

The disintegration of the equatorward-propagating K1 internal tide in the South China Sea (SCS) by parametric subharmonic instability (PSI) at its critical latitude of 14.52°N is investigated numerically. The multiple-source generation and long-range propagation of K1 internal tides are successfully reproduced. Using equilibrium analysis, the internal wave field near the critical latitude is found to experience two quasi-steady states, between which the subharmonic waves develop constantly. The simulated subharmonic waves agree well with classic PSI theoretical prediction. The PSI-induced near-inertial waves are of half the K1 frequency and dominantly high modes, the vertical scales ranging from 50 to 180 m in the upper ocean. From an energy perspective, PSI mainly occurs in the critical latitudinal zone from 13° to 15°N. In this zone, the incident internal tide loses ~14% energy in the mature state of PSI. PSI triggers a mixing elevation of O(10−5–10−4) m2 s−1 in the upper ocean at the critical latitude, which is several times larger than the background value. The contribution of PSI to the internal tide energy loss and associated enhanced mixing may differ regionally and is closely dependent on the intensity and duration of background internal tide. The results elucidate the far-field dissipation mechanism by PSI in connecting interior mixing with remotely generated K1 internal tides in the Luzon Strait.

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Zhongxiang Zhao and Matthew H. Alford

Abstract

New estimates of mode-1 M 2 internal tide energy flux are computed from an extended Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon (T/P) altimeter dataset that includes both the original and tandem tracks, improving spatial resolution over previous estimates from O(500 km) to O(250 km). Additionally, a new technique is developed that allows separate resolution of northward and southward components. Half-wavelength features previously seen in unseparated estimates are shown to be due to the superposition of northward and southward wave trains. The new technique and higher spatial resolution afford a new view of mode-1 M 2 internal tides in the central North Pacific Ocean. As with all altimetric estimates, only the coherent or phase-locked signals are detectable owing to the long repeat period of the tracks. Emanating from specific generation sites consistent with predictions from numerical models, internal tidal beams 1) are as narrow as 200 km and 2) propagate a longer distance than previously observed. Two northward internal tidal beams radiating from the Hawaiian Ridge, previously obscured by coarse resolution and the southward Aleutian beam, are now seen to propagate more than 3500 km across the North Pacific Ocean to reach the Alaskan shelf. The internal tidal beams are much better resolved than in previous studies, resulting in better agreement with moored flux estimates.

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Matthew H. Alford and Zhongxiang Zhao

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Extending an earlier attempt to understand long-range propagation of the global internal-wave field, the energy E and horizontal energy flux F are computed for the two gravest baroclinic modes at 80 historical moorings around the globe. With bandpass filtering, the calculation is performed for the semidiurnal band (emphasizing M 2 internal tides, generated by flow over sloping topography) and for the near-inertial band (emphasizing wind-generated waves near the Coriolis frequency). The time dependence of semidiurnal E and F is first examined at six locations north of the Hawaiian Ridge; E and F typically rise and fall together and can vary by over an order of magnitude at each site. This variability typically has a strong spring–neap component, in addition to longer time scales. The observed spring tides at sites northwest of the Hawaiian Ridge are coherent with barotropic forcing at the ridge, but lagged by times consistent with travel at the theoretical mode-1 group speed from the ridge. Phase computed from 14-day windows varies by approximately ±45° on monthly time scales, implying refraction by mesoscale currents and stratification. This refraction also causes the bulk of internal-tide energy flux to be undetectable by altimetry and other long-term harmonic-analysis techniques. As found previously, the mean flux in both frequency bands is O(1 kW m−1), sufficient to radiate a substantial fraction of energy far from each source. Tidal flux is generally away from regions of strong topography. Near-inertial flux is overwhelmingly equatorward, as required for waves generated at the inertial frequency on a β plane, and is winter-enhanced, consistent with storm generation. In a companion paper, the group velocity, ĉ gF E −1, is examined for both frequency bands.

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Matthew H. Alford and Zhongxiang Zhao

Abstract

Using a set of 80 globally distributed time series of near-inertial and semidiurnal energy E and energy flux F computed from historical moorings, the group velocity ĉ gF E −1 is estimated. For a single free wave, observed group speed |ĉ g| should equal that expected from linear wave theory. For comparison, the latitude dependence of perceived group speed for perfectly standing waves is also derived. The latitudinal dependence of observed semidiurnal |ĉ g| closely follows that expected for free waves at all latitudes, implying that 1) low-mode internal tides obey linear theory and 2) standing internal-tidal waves are rare in the deep ocean for latitudes equatorward of about 35°. At higher latitudes, standing waves cannot be easily distinguished from free waves using this method because their expected group speeds are similar. Near-inertial waves exhibit scattered |ĉ g| values consistent with the passage of events generated at various latitudes, with implied frequencies ω ≈ 1.05–1.25 × f, as typically observed in frequency spectra.

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Zhongxiang Zhao, Matthew H. Alford, Jennifer A. MacKinnon, and Rob Pinkel

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The northeastward progression of the semidiurnal internal tide from French Frigate Shoals (FFS), Hawaii, is studied with an array of six simultaneous profiling moorings spanning 25.5°–37.1°N (≈1400 km) and 13-yr-long Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon (T/P) altimeter data processed by a new technique. The moorings have excellent temporal and vertical resolutions, while the altimeter offers broad spatial coverage of the surface manifestation of the internal tide’s coherent portion. Together these two approaches provide a unique view of the internal tide’s long-range propagation in a complex ocean environment. The moored observations reveal a rich, time-variable, and multimodal internal tide field, with higher-mode motions contributing significantly to velocity, displacement, and energy. In spite of these contributions, the coherent mode-1 internal tide dominates the northeastward energy flux, and is detectable in both moored and altimetric data over the entire array. Phase and group propagation measured independently from moorings and altimetry agree well with theoretical values. Sea surface height anomalies (SSHAs) measured from moorings and altimetry agree well in amplitude and phase until the northern end of the array, where phase differences arise presumably from refraction by mesoscale flows. Observed variations in SSHA, energy flux, and kinetic-to-potential energy ratio indicate an interference pattern resulting from superposed northeastward radiation from Hawaii and southeastward from the Aleutian Ridge. A simple model of two plane waves explains most of these features.

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Zhongxiang Zhao, Eric A. D’Asaro, and Jeffrey A. Nystuen

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Underwater ambient sound levels beneath tropical cyclones were measured using hydrophones onboard Lagrangian floats, which were air deployed in the paths of Hurricane Gustav (2008) and Typhoons Megi (2010) and Fanapi (2010). The sound levels at 40 Hz–50 kHz from 1- to 50-m depth were measured at wind speeds up to 45 m s−1. The measurements reveal a complex dependence of the sound level on wind speed due to the competing effects of sound generation by breaking wind waves and sound attenuation by quiescent bubbles. Sound level increases monotonically with increasing wind speed only for low frequencies (<200 Hz). At higher frequencies (>200 Hz), sound level first increases and then decreases with increasing wind speed. There is a wind speed that produces a maximum sound level for each frequency; the wind speed of the maximum sound level decreases with frequency. Sound level at >20 kHz mostly decreases with wind speed over the wind range 15–45 m s−1. The sound field is nearly uniform with depth in the upper 50 m with nearly all sound attenuation limited to the upper 2 m at all measured frequencies. A simple model of bubble trajectories based on the measured float trajectories finds that resonant bubbles at the high-frequency end of the observations (25 kHz) could easily be advected deeper than 2 m during tropical cyclones. Thus, bubble rise velocity alone cannot explain the lack of sound attenuation at these depths.

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Tyler D. Hennon, Matthew H. Alford, and Zhongxiang Zhao

Abstract

Though unresolved by Argo floats, internal waves still impart an aliased signal onto their profile measurements. Recent studies have yielded nearly global characterization of several constituents of the stationary internal tides. Using this new information in conjunction with thousands of floats, we quantify the influence of the stationary, mode-1 M2 and S2 internal tides on Argo-observed temperature. We calculate the in situ temperature anomaly observed by Argo floats (usually on the order of 0.1°C) and compare it to the anomaly expected from the stationary internal tides derived from altimetry. Globally, there is a small, positive correlation between the expected and in situ signals. There is a stronger relationship in regions with more intense internal waves, as well as at depths near the nominal mode-1 maximum. However, we are unable to use this relationship to remove significant variance from the in situ observations. This is somewhat surprising, given that the magnitude of the altimetry-derived signal is often on a similar scale to the in situ signal, and points toward a greater importance of the nonstationary internal tides than previously assumed.

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J. A. MacKinnon, M. H. Alford, Oliver Sun, Rob Pinkel, Zhongxiang Zhao, and Jody Klymak

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Observational evidence is presented for transfer of energy from the internal tide to near-inertial motions near 29°N in the Pacific Ocean. The transfer is accomplished via parametric subharmonic instability (PSI), which involves interaction between a primary wave (the internal tide in this case) and two smaller-scale waves of nearly half the frequency. The internal tide at this location is a complex superposition of a low-mode waves propagating north from Hawaii and higher-mode waves generated at local seamounts, making application of PSI theory challenging. Nevertheless, a statistically significant phase locking is documented between the internal tide and upward- and downward-propagating near-inertial waves. The phase between those three waves is consistent with that expected from PSI theory. Calculated energy transfer rates from the tide to near-inertial motions are modest, consistent with local dissipation rate estimates. The conclusion is that while PSI does befall the tide near a critical latitude of 29°N, it does not do so catastrophically.

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J. A. MacKinnon, M. H. Alford, Rob Pinkel, Jody Klymak, and Zhongxiang Zhao

Abstract

Turbulent mixing rates are inferred from measurements spanning 25°–37°N in the Pacific Ocean. The observations were made as part of the Internal Waves Across the Pacific experiment, designed to investigate the long-range fate of the low-mode internal tide propagating north from Hawaii. Previous and companion results argue that, near a critical latitude of 29°N, the internal tide loses energy to high-mode near-inertial motions through parametric subharmonic instability. Here, the authors estimate mixing from several variations of the finescale shear–strain parameterization, as well as Thorpe-scale analysis of overturns. Though all estimated diffusivities are modest in magnitude, average diffusivity in the top kilometer shows a factor of 2–4 elevation near and equatorward of 29°N. However, given intrinsic uncertainty and the strong temporal variability of diffusivity observed in long mooring records, the meridional mixing pattern is found to be near the edge of statistical significance.

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Zhongxiang Zhao, Matthew H. Alford, Ren-Chieh Lien, Michael C. Gregg, and Glenn S. Carter

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The time variability of the energetics and turbulent dissipation of internal tides in the upper Monterey Submarine Canyon (MSC) is examined with three moored profilers and five ADCP moorings spanning February–April 2009. Highly resolved time series of velocity, energy, and energy flux are all dominated by the semidiurnal internal tide and show pronounced spring-neap cycles. However, the onset of springtime upwelling winds significantly alters the stratification during the record, causing the thermocline depth to shoal from about 100 to 40 m. The time-variable stratification must be accounted for because it significantly affects the energy, energy flux, the vertical modal structures, and the energy distribution among the modes. The internal tide changes from a partly horizontally standing wave to a more freely propagating wave when the thermocline shoals, suggesting more reflection from up canyon early in the observational record. Turbulence, computed from Thorpe scales, is greatest in the bottom 50–150 m and shows a spring-neap cycle. Depth-integrated dissipation is 3 times greater toward the end of the record, reaching 60 mW m−2 during the last spring tide. Dissipation near a submarine ridge is strongly tidally modulated, reaching 10−5 W kg−1 (10–15-m overturns) during spring tide and appears to be due to breaking lee waves. However, the phasing of the breaking is also affected by the changing stratification, occurring when isopycnals are deflected downward early in the record and upward toward the end.

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