The Upper-Ocean Response to Surface Heating

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  • 1 School of oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
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Abstract

Moored observations of atmospheric variables and upper-ocean temperatures from the Long-Term Upper-Ocean Study (LOTUS) and the Frontal Air-Sea Interaction Experiment (FASINEX) are used to examine the upper-ocean response to surface heating. FASINEX took place between January and June 1986 at 27°N, 7°M while LOTUS took place between May and October 1982 at 34°N, 7°W. The frequency-domain transfer function between rate of change of heat and the net surface heat flux is consistent with a one-dimensional heat balance between heating and convergence of vertical turbulent heat flux at timescales longer than the inertial. The observations satisfy the vertically integrated one-dimensional heat equation and indicate that the response to surface heating has been successfully isolated. Within the internal waveband, upward phase propagation in the response is inconsistent with a one-dimensional balance and the vertically integrated heat balance fails. The internal waveband response is explained as a balance between rate of change of heat, mixing, and vertical advection. A simple model, which admits internal waves forced by an oscillatory surface buoyancy flux, illustrates the competition between these three terms. Stratification modulates the depth to which surface heating is mixed. The estimated eddy diffusivity may be considered a linear function of frequency where the scaling constant reflects the mixed layer depth.

Abstract

Moored observations of atmospheric variables and upper-ocean temperatures from the Long-Term Upper-Ocean Study (LOTUS) and the Frontal Air-Sea Interaction Experiment (FASINEX) are used to examine the upper-ocean response to surface heating. FASINEX took place between January and June 1986 at 27°N, 7°M while LOTUS took place between May and October 1982 at 34°N, 7°W. The frequency-domain transfer function between rate of change of heat and the net surface heat flux is consistent with a one-dimensional heat balance between heating and convergence of vertical turbulent heat flux at timescales longer than the inertial. The observations satisfy the vertically integrated one-dimensional heat equation and indicate that the response to surface heating has been successfully isolated. Within the internal waveband, upward phase propagation in the response is inconsistent with a one-dimensional balance and the vertically integrated heat balance fails. The internal waveband response is explained as a balance between rate of change of heat, mixing, and vertical advection. A simple model, which admits internal waves forced by an oscillatory surface buoyancy flux, illustrates the competition between these three terms. Stratification modulates the depth to which surface heating is mixed. The estimated eddy diffusivity may be considered a linear function of frequency where the scaling constant reflects the mixed layer depth.

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