Ferrari Raffaele

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  • Article
    Abyssal circulation driven by near-boundary mixing: water mass transformations and interior stratification
    (American Meteorological Society, 2020-07-24) Drake, Henri F. ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Callies, Joern
    The emerging view of the abyssal circulation is that it is associated with bottom-enhanced mixing, which results in downwelling in the stratified ocean interior and upwelling in a bottom boundary layer along the insulating and sloping seafloor. In the limit of slowly varying vertical stratification and topography, however, boundary layer theory predicts that these upslope and downslope flows largely compensate, such that net water mass transformations along the slope are vanishingly small. Using a planetary geostrophic circulation model that resolves both the boundary layer dynamics and the large-scale overturning in an idealized basin with bottom-enhanced mixing along a midocean ridge, we show that vertical variations in stratification become sufficiently large at equilibrium to reduce the degree of compensation along the midocean ridge flanks. The resulting large net transformations are similar to estimates for the abyssal ocean and span the vertical extent of the ridge. These results suggest that boundary flows generated by mixing play a crucial role in setting the global ocean stratification and overturning circulation, requiring a revision of abyssal ocean theories.
  • Article
    Role of residual overturning for the sensitivity of Southern Ocean isopycnal slopes to changes in wind forcing
    (American Meteorological Society, 2019-10-30) Youngs, Madeleine K. ; Flierl, Glenn R. ; Ferrari, Raffaele
    The Antarctic Circumpolar Current plays a central role in the ventilation of heat and carbon in the global ocean. In particular, the isopycnal slopes determine where each water mass outcrops and thus how the ocean interacts with the atmosphere. The region-integrated isopycnal slopes have been suggested to be eddy saturated, that is, stay relatively constant as the wind forcing changes, but whether or not the flow is saturated in realistic present day and future parameter regimes is unknown. This study analyzes an idealized two-layer quasigeostrophic channel model forced by a wind stress and a residual overturning generated by a mass flux across the interface between the two layers, with and without a blocking ridge. The sign and strength of the residual overturning set which way the isopycnal slopes change with the wind forcing, leading to an increase in slope with an increase in wind forcing for a positive overturning and a decrease in slope for a negative overturning, following the usual conventions; this behavior is caused by the dominant standing meander weakening as the wind stress weakens causing the isopycnal slopes to become more sensitive to changes in the wind stress and converge with the slopes of a flat-bottomed simulation. Eddy saturation only appears once the wind forcing passes a critical level. These results show that theories for saturation must have both topography and residual overturning in order to be complete and provide a framework for understanding how the isopycnal slopes in the Southern Ocean may change in response to future changes in wind forcing.
  • Article
    Seasonality in submesoscale turbulence
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2015-04-21) Callies, Joern ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Klymak, Jody M. ; Gula, Jonathan
    Although the strongest ocean surface currents occur at horizontal scales of order 100 km, recent numerical simulations suggest that flows smaller than these mesoscale eddies can achieve important vertical transports in the upper ocean. These submesoscale flows, 1–100 km in horizontal extent, take heat and atmospheric gases down into the interior ocean, accelerating air–sea fluxes, and bring deep nutrients up into the sunlit surface layer, fueling primary production. Here we present observational evidence that submesoscale flows undergo a seasonal cycle in the surface mixed layer: they are much stronger in winter than in summer. Submesoscale flows are energized by baroclinic instabilities that develop around geostrophic eddies in the deep winter mixed layer at a horizontal scale of order 1–10 km. Flows larger than this instability scale are energized by turbulent scale interactions. Enhanced submesoscale activity in the winter mixed layer is expected to achieve efficient exchanges with the permanent thermocline below.
  • Article
    Direct estimate of lateral eddy diffusivity upstream of Drake Passage
    (American Meteorological Society, 2014-10) Tulloch, Ross ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Jahn, Oliver ; Klocker, Andreas ; LaCasce, Joseph H. ; Ledwell, James R. ; Marshall, John C. ; Messias, Marie-Jose ; Speer, Kevin G. ; Watson, Andrew J.
    The first direct estimate of the rate at which geostrophic turbulence mixes tracers across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is presented. The estimate is computed from the spreading of a tracer released upstream of Drake Passage as part of the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES). The meridional eddy diffusivity, a measure of the rate at which the area of the tracer spreads along an isopycnal across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, is 710 ± 260 m2 s−1 at 1500-m depth. The estimate is based on an extrapolation of the tracer-based diffusivity using output from numerical tracers released in a one-twentieth of a degree model simulation of the circulation and turbulence in the Drake Passage region. The model is shown to reproduce the observed spreading rate of the DIMES tracer and suggests that the meridional eddy diffusivity is weak in the upper kilometer of the water column with values below 500 m2 s−1 and peaks at the steering level, near 2 km, where the eddy phase speed is equal to the mean flow speed. These vertical variations are not captured by ocean models presently used for climate studies, but they significantly affect the ventilation of different water masses.
  • Article
    The LatMix summer campaign : submesoscale stirring in the upper ocean
    (American Meteorological Society, 2015-08) Shcherbina, Andrey Y. ; Sundermeyer, Miles A. ; Kunze, Eric ; D'Asaro, Eric A. ; Badin, Gualtiero ; Birch, Daniel ; Brunner-Suzuki, Anne-Marie E. G. ; Callies, Joern ; Cervantes, Brandy T. Kuebel ; Claret, Mariona ; Concannon, Brian ; Early, Jeffrey ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Goodman, Louis ; Harcourt, Ramsey R. ; Klymak, Jody M. ; Lee, Craig M. ; Lelong, M.-Pascale ; Levine, Murray D. ; Lien, Ren-Chieh ; Mahadevan, Amala ; McWilliams, James C. ; Molemaker, M. Jeroen ; Mukherjee, Sonaljit ; Nash, Jonathan D. ; Ozgokmen, Tamay M. ; Pierce, Stephen D. ; Ramachandran, Sanjiv ; Samelson, Roger M. ; Sanford, Thomas B. ; Shearman, R. Kipp ; Skyllingstad, Eric D. ; Smith, K. Shafer ; Tandon, Amit ; Taylor, John R. ; Terray, Eugene A. ; Thomas, Leif N. ; Ledwell, James R.
    Lateral stirring is a basic oceanographic phenomenon affecting the distribution of physical, chemical, and biological fields. Eddy stirring at scales on the order of 100 km (the mesoscale) is fairly well understood and explicitly represented in modern eddy-resolving numerical models of global ocean circulation. The same cannot be said for smaller-scale stirring processes. Here, the authors describe a major oceanographic field experiment aimed at observing and understanding the processes responsible for stirring at scales of 0.1–10 km. Stirring processes of varying intensity were studied in the Sargasso Sea eddy field approximately 250 km southeast of Cape Hatteras. Lateral variability of water-mass properties, the distribution of microscale turbulence, and the evolution of several patches of inert dye were studied with an array of shipboard, autonomous, and airborne instruments. Observations were made at two sites, characterized by weak and moderate background mesoscale straining, to contrast different regimes of lateral stirring. Analyses to date suggest that, in both cases, the lateral dispersion of natural and deliberately released tracers was O(1) m2 s–1 as found elsewhere, which is faster than might be expected from traditional shear dispersion by persistent mesoscale flow and linear internal waves. These findings point to the possible importance of kilometer-scale stirring by submesoscale eddies and nonlinear internal-wave processes or the need to modify the traditional shear-dispersion paradigm to include higher-order effects. A unique aspect of the Scalable Lateral Mixing and Coherent Turbulence (LatMix) field experiment is the combination of direct measurements of dye dispersion with the concurrent multiscale hydrographic and turbulence observations, enabling evaluation of the underlying mechanisms responsible for the observed dispersion at a new level.
  • Article
    Basin-width dependence of northern deep convection
    (American Geophysical Union, 2020-07-08) Youngs, Madeleine K. ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Flierl, Glenn R.
    Convection penetrates to the ocean bottom in the North Atlantic but not in the North Pacific. This study examines the role of basin width in shutting down high‐latitude ocean convection. Deep convection is triggered by polar cooling, but it is opposed by precipitation. A two‐layer analytical model illustrates that the overturning circulation acts to mitigate the effect of precipitation by advecting salty, dense water from subtropical latitudes to polar latitudes. The nonlinear dependence of the overturning strength on basin width makes it more efficient in a narrow basin, resulting in a convection shutdown at a stronger freshwater forcing. These predictions are confirmed by simulations with a general circulation model configured with a single closed basin to the north and a reentrant channel to the south. This suggests that basin width may play a role in suppressing convection in the North Pacific but not in the North Atlantic.
  • Article
    On the future of Argo: A global, full-depth, multi-disciplinary array
    (Frontiers Media, 2019-08-02) Roemmich, Dean ; Alford, Matthew H. ; Claustre, Hervé ; Johnson, Kenneth S. ; King, Brian ; Moum, James N. ; Oke, Peter ; Owens, W. Brechner ; Pouliquen, Sylvie ; Purkey, Sarah G. ; Scanderbeg, Megan ; Suga, Koushirou ; Wijffels, Susan E. ; Zilberman, Nathalie ; Bakker, Dorothee ; Baringer, Molly O. ; Belbeoch, Mathieu ; Bittig, Henry C. ; Boss, Emmanuel S. ; Calil, Paulo H. R. ; Carse, Fiona ; Carval, Thierry ; Chai, Fei ; Conchubhair, Diarmuid Ó. ; d’Ortenzio, Fabrizio ; Dall'Olmo, Giorgio ; Desbruyeres, Damien ; Fennel, Katja ; Fer, Ilker ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Forget, Gael ; Freeland, Howard ; Fujiki, Tetsuichi ; Gehlen, Marion ; Geenan, Blair ; Hallberg, Robert ; Hibiya, Toshiyuki ; Hosoda, Shigeki ; Jayne, Steven R. ; Jochum, Markus ; Johnson, Gregory C. ; Kang, KiRyong ; Kolodziejczyk, Nicolas ; Körtzinger, Arne ; Le Traon, Pierre-Yves ; Lenn, Yueng-Djern ; Maze, Guillaume ; Mork, Kjell Arne ; Morris, Tamaryn ; Nagai, Takeyoshi ; Nash, Jonathan D. ; Naveira Garabato, Alberto C. ; Olsen, Are ; Pattabhi Rama Rao, Eluri ; Prakash, Satya ; Riser, Stephen C. ; Schmechtig, Catherine ; Schmid, Claudia ; Shroyer, Emily L. ; Sterl, Andreas ; Sutton, Philip J. H. ; Talley, Lynne D. ; Tanhua, Toste ; Thierry, Virginie ; Thomalla, Sandy J. ; Toole, John M. ; Troisi, Ariel ; Trull, Thomas W. ; Turton, Jon ; Velez-Belchi, Pedro ; Walczowski, Waldemar ; Wang, Haili ; Wanninkhof, Rik ; Waterhouse, Amy F. ; Waterman, Stephanie N. ; Watson, Andrew J. ; Wilson, Cara ; Wong, Annie P. S. ; Xu, Jianping ; Yasuda, Ichiro
    The Argo Program has been implemented and sustained for almost two decades, as a global array of about 4000 profiling floats. Argo provides continuous observations of ocean temperature and salinity versus pressure, from the sea surface to 2000 dbar. The successful installation of the Argo array and its innovative data management system arose opportunistically from the combination of great scientific need and technological innovation. Through the data system, Argo provides fundamental physical observations with broad societally-valuable applications, built on the cost-efficient and robust technologies of autonomous profiling floats. Following recent advances in platform and sensor technologies, even greater opportunity exists now than 20 years ago to (i) improve Argo’s global coverage and value beyond the original design, (ii) extend Argo to span the full ocean depth, (iii) add biogeochemical sensors for improved understanding of oceanic cycles of carbon, nutrients, and ecosystems, and (iv) consider experimental sensors that might be included in the future, for example to document the spatial and temporal patterns of ocean mixing. For Core Argo and each of these enhancements, the past, present, and future progression along a path from experimental deployments to regional pilot arrays to global implementation is described. The objective is to create a fully global, top-to-bottom, dynamically complete, and multidisciplinary Argo Program that will integrate seamlessly with satellite and with other in situ elements of the Global Ocean Observing System (Legler et al., 2015). The integrated system will deliver operational reanalysis and forecasting capability, and assessment of the state and variability of the climate system with respect to physical, biogeochemical, and ecosystems parameters. It will enable basic research of unprecedented breadth and magnitude, and a wealth of ocean-education and outreach opportunities.
  • Article
    Topographic enhancement of vertical turbulent mixing in the Southern Ocean
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2017-03-06) Mashayek, Ali ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Merrifield, Sophia T. ; Ledwell, James R. ; St. Laurent, Louis C. ; Naveira Garabato, Alberto C.
    It is an open question whether turbulent mixing across density surfaces is sufficiently large to play a dominant role in closing the deep branch of the ocean meridional overturning circulation. The diapycnal and isopycnal mixing experiment in the Southern Ocean found the turbulent diffusivity inferred from the vertical spreading of a tracer to be an order of magnitude larger than that inferred from the microstructure profiles at the mean tracer depth of 1,500 m in the Drake Passage. Using a high-resolution ocean model, it is shown that the fast vertical spreading of tracer occurs when it comes in contact with mixing hotspots over rough topography. The sparsity of such hotspots is made up for by enhanced tracer residence time in their vicinity due to diffusion toward weak bottom flows. The increased tracer residence time may explain the large vertical fluxes of heat and salt required to close the abyssal circulation.
  • Article
    Finescale structure of the T-S relation in the eastern North Atlantic
    (American Meteorological Society, 2005-08) Ferrari, Raffaele ; Polzin, Kurt L.
    Distributions of temperature (T) and salinity (S) and their relationship in the oceans are the result of a balance between T–S variability generated at the surface by air–sea fluxes and its removal by molecular dissipation. In this paper the role of different motions in setting the cascade of T–S variance to dissipation scales is quantified using data from the North Atlantic Tracer Release Experiment (NATRE). The NATRE observational programs include fine- and microscale measurements and provide a snapshot of T–S variability across a wide range of scales from basin to molecular. It is found that microscale turbulence controls the rate of thermal dissipation in the thermocline. At this level the T–S relation is established through a balance between large-scale advection by the gyre circulation and small-scale turbulence. Further down, at the level of intermediate and Mediterranean waters, mesoscale eddies are the rate-controlling process. The transition between the two regimes is related to the presence of a strong salinity gradient along density surfaces associated with the outflow of Mediterranean waters. Mesoscale eddies stir this gradient and produce a rich filamentation and salinity-compensated temperature inversions: isopycnal stirring and diapycnal mixing are both required to explain the T–S relation at depth.
  • Article
    Transformation and upwelling of bottom water in fracture zone valleys
    (American Meteorological Society, 2020-03-03) Thurnherr, Andreas M. ; Clément, Louis ; St. Laurent, Louis C. ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Ijichi, Takashi
    Closing the overturning circulation of bottom water requires abyssal transformation to lighter densities and upwelling. Where and how buoyancy is gained and water is transported upward remain topics of debate, not least because the available observations generally show downward-increasing turbulence levels in the abyss, apparently implying mean vertical turbulent buoyancy-flux divergence (densification). Here, we synthesize available observations indicating that bottom water is made less dense and upwelled in fracture zone valleys on the flanks of slow-spreading midocean ridges, which cover more than one-half of the seafloor area in some regions. The fracture zones are filled almost completely with water flowing up-valley and gaining buoyancy. Locally, valley water is transformed to lighter densities both in thin boundary layers that are in contact with the seafloor, where the buoyancy flux must vanish to match the no-flux boundary condition, and in thicker layers associated with downward-decreasing turbulence levels below interior maxima associated with hydraulic overflows and critical-layer interactions. Integrated across the valley, the turbulent buoyancy fluxes show maxima near the sidewall crests, consistent with net convergence below, with little sensitivity of this pattern to the vertical structure of the turbulence profiles, which implies that buoyancy flux convergence in the layers with downward-decreasing turbulence levels dominates over the divergence elsewhere, accounting for the net transformation to lighter densities in fracture zone valleys. We conclude that fracture zone topography likely exerts a controlling influence on the transformation and upwelling of bottom water in many areas of the global ocean.
  • Article
    The CLIMODE field campaign : observing the cycle of convection and restratification over the Gulf Stream
    (American Meteorological Society, 2009-09) Marshall, John C. ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Forget, Gael ; Andersson, A. ; Bates, Nicholas R. ; Dewar, William K. ; Doney, Scott C. ; Fratantoni, David M. ; Joyce, Terrence M. ; Straneo, Fiamma ; Toole, John M. ; Weller, Robert A. ; Edson, James B. ; Gregg, M. C. ; Kelly, Kathryn A. ; Lozier, M. Susan ; Palter, Jaime B. ; Lumpkin, Rick ; Samelson, Roger M. ; Skyllingstad, Eric D. ; Silverthorne, Katherine E. ; Talley, Lynne D. ; Thomas, Leif N.
    A major oceanographic field experiment is described, which is designed to observe, quantify, and understand the creation and dispersal of weakly stratified fluid known as “mode water” in the region of the Gulf Stream. Formed in the wintertime by convection driven by the most intense air–sea fluxes observed anywhere over the globe, the role of mode waters in the general circulation of the subtropical gyre and its biogeo-chemical cycles is also addressed. The experiment is known as the CLIVAR Mode Water Dynamic Experiment (CLIMODE). Here we review the scientific objectives of the experiment and present some preliminary results.
  • Article
    A microscale view of mixing and overturning across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current
    (American Meteorological Society, 2016-01) Naveira Garabato, Alberto C. ; Polzin, Kurt L. ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Zika, Jan D. ; Forryan, Alexander
    The relative roles of isoneutral stirring by mesoscale eddies and dianeutral stirring by small-scale turbulence in setting the large-scale temperature–salinity relation of the Southern Ocean against the action of the overturning circulation are assessed by analyzing a set of shear and temperature microstructure measurements across Drake Passage in a “triple decomposition” framework. It is shown that a picture of mixing and overturning across a region of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) may be constructed from a relatively modest number of microstructure profiles. The rates of isoneutral and dianeutral stirring are found to exhibit distinct, characteristic, and abrupt variations: most notably, a one to two orders of magnitude suppression of isoneutral stirring in the upper kilometer of the ACC frontal jets and an order of magnitude intensification of dianeutral stirring in the subpycnocline and deepest layers of the ACC. These variations balance an overturning circulation with meridional flows of O(1) mm s−1 across the ACC’s mean thermohaline structure. Isoneutral and dianeutral stirring play complementary roles in balancing the overturning, with isoneutral processes dominating in intermediate waters and the Upper Circumpolar Deep Water and dianeutral processes prevailing in lighter and denser layers.
  • Technical Report
    2014 program ot study : climate physics and dynamics
    (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2015-09) Provenzale, Antonello ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Flierl, Glenn R.
    From the Preface: The 2014 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Summer Study Program started on June 16th, with the topic of Climate Physics and Dynamics. The topic proved very timely and attracted an unprecedented number of applications from brilliant students. Professors Kerry Emanuel (MIT) and Geoff Vallis (Exeter) gave the principal lectures. They began with the simplest energy balance models and then included adjustment of the vertical profiles by convection (dry and moist). Kerry delved more deeply into convection and the processes found in "cloud-permitting" models, including island effects and the spontaneous formation of clusters surrounded by dry regions. Geoff discussed the larger-scale dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, including the transports by eddies and the thermohaline circulation.
  • Article
    Diapycnal displacement, diffusion, and distortion of tracers in the ocean
    (American Meteorological Society, 2022-11-18) Drake, Henri F. ; Ruan, Xiaozhou ; Ferrari, Raffaele
    Small-scale mixing drives the diabatic upwelling that closes the abyssal ocean overturning circulation. Indirect microstructure measurements of in situ turbulence suggest that mixing is bottom enhanced over rough topography, implying downwelling in the interior and stronger upwelling in a sloping bottom boundary layer. Tracer release experiments (TREs), in which inert tracers are purposefully released and their dispersion is surveyed over time, have been used to independently infer turbulent diffusivities—but typically provide estimates in excess of microstructure ones. In an attempt to reconcile these differences, Ruan and Ferrari derived exact tracer-weighted buoyancy moment diagnostics, which we here apply to quasi-realistic simulations. A tracer’s diapycnal displacement rate is exactly twice the tracer-averaged buoyancy velocity, itself a convolution of an asymmetric upwelling/downwelling dipole. The tracer’s diapycnal spreading rate, however, involves both the expected positive contribution from the tracer-averaged in situ diffusion as well as an additional nonlinear diapycnal distortion term, which is caused by correlations between buoyancy and the buoyancy velocity, and can be of either sign. Distortion is generally positive (stretching) due to bottom-enhanced mixing in the stratified interior but negative (contraction) near the bottom. Our simulations suggest that these two effects coincidentally cancel for the Brazil Basin Tracer Release Experiment, resulting in negligible net distortion. By contrast, near-bottom tracers experience leading-order distortion that varies in time. Errors in tracer moments due to realistically sparse sampling are generally small (<20%), especially compared to the O(1) structural errors due to the omission of distortion effects in inverse models. These results suggest that TREs, although indispensable, should not be treated as “unambiguous” constraints on diapycnal mixing.
  • Preprint
    Wave–vortex decomposition of one-dimensional ship track data
    ( 2014-07-29) Buhler, Oliver ; Callies, Joern ; Ferrari, Raffaele
    We present a simple two-step method by which one-dimensional spectra of horizontal velocity and buoyancy measured along a ship track can be decomposed into a wave component consisting of inertia–gravity waves and a vortex component consisting of a horizontal flow in geostrophic balance. The method requires certain assumptions for the data regarding stationarity, homogeneity, and horizontal isotropy. In the first step an exact Helmholtz decomposition of the horizontal velocity spectra into rotational and divergent components is performed and in the second step an energy equipartition property of hydrostatic inertia–gravity waves is exploited that allows diagnosing the wave energy spectrum solely from the observed horizontal velocities. The observed buoyancy spectrum can then be used to compute the residual vortex energy spectrum. Further wave–vortex decompositions of the observed fields are possible if additional information about the frequency content of the waves is available. We illustrate the method on two recent oceanic data sets from the North Pacific and the Gulf Stream. Notably, both steps in our new method might be of broader use in the theoretical and observational study of atmosphere and ocean fluid dynamics.
  • Article
    Dynamics of eddying abyssal mixing layers over sloping rough topography
    (American Meteorological Society, 2022-11-18) Drake, Henri F. ; Ruan, Xiaozhou ; Callies, Joern ; Ogden, Kelly A. ; Thurnherr, Andreas M. ; Ferrari, Raffaele
    The abyssal overturning circulation is thought to be primarily driven by small-scale turbulent mixing. Diagnosed water-mass transformations are dominated by rough topography “hotspots,” where the bottom enhancement of mixing causes the diffusive buoyancy flux to diverge, driving widespread downwelling in the interior—only to be overwhelmed by an even stronger upwelling in a thin bottom boundary layer (BBL). These water-mass transformations are significantly underestimated by one-dimensional (1D) sloping boundary layer solutions, suggesting the importance of three-dimensional physics. Here, we use a hierarchy of models to generalize this 1D boundary layer approach to three-dimensional eddying flows over realistically rough topography. When applied to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Brazil Basin, the idealized simulation results are roughly consistent with available observations. Integral buoyancy budgets isolate the physical processes that contribute to realistically strong BBL upwelling. The downward diffusion of buoyancy is primarily balanced by upwelling along the sloping canyon sidewalls and the surrounding abyssal hills. These flows are strengthened by the restratifying effects of submesoscale baroclinic eddies and by the blocking of along-ridge thermal wind within the canyon. Major topographic sills block along-thalweg flows from restratifying the canyon trough, resulting in the continual erosion of the trough’s stratification. We propose simple modifications to the 1D boundary layer model that approximate each of these three-dimensional effects. These results provide local dynamical insights into mixing-driven abyssal overturning, but a complete theory will also require the nonlocal coupling to the basin-scale circulation.
  • Article
    Eddy stirring in the Southern Ocean
    (American Geophysical Union, 2011-09-17) Naveira Garabato, Alberto C. ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Polzin, Kurt L.
    There is an ongoing debate concerning the distribution of eddy stirring across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and the nature of its controlling processes. The problem is addressed here by estimating the isentropic eddy diffusivity κ from a collection of hydrographic and altimetric observations, analyzed in a mixing length theoretical framework. It is shown that, typically, κ is suppressed by an order of magnitude in the upper kilometer of the ACC frontal jets relative to their surroundings, primarily as a result of a local reduction of the mixing length. This observation is reproduced by a quasi-geostrophic theory of eddy stirring across a broad barotropic jet based on the scaling law derived by Ferrari and Nikurashin (2010). The theory interprets the observed widespread suppression of the mixing length and κ in the upper layers of frontal jets as the kinematic consequence of eddy propagation relative to the mean flow within jet cores. Deviations from the prevalent regime of mixing suppression in the core of upper-ocean jets are encountered in a few special sites. Such ‘leaky jet’ segments appear to be associated with sharp stationary meanders of the mean flow that are generated by the interaction of the ACC with major topographic features. It is contended that the characteristic thermohaline structure of the Southern Ocean, consisting of multiple upper-ocean thermohaline fronts separated and underlaid by regions of homogenized properties, is largely a result of the widespread suppression of eddy stirring by parallel jets.
  • Article
    Grazing behavior and winter phytoplankton accumulation
    (European Geosciences Union, 2021-10-18) Freilich, Mara ; Mignot, Alexandre ; Flierl, Glenn R. ; Ferrari, Raffaele
    Recent observations have shown that phytoplankton biomass increases in the North Atlantic during winter, even when the mixed layer is deepening and light is limited. Current theories suggest that this is due to a release from grazing pressure. Here we demonstrate that the often-used grazing models that are linear at low phytoplankton concentration do not allow for a wintertime increase in phytoplankton biomass. However, mathematical formulations of grazing as a function of phytoplankton concentration that are quadratic at low concentrations (or more generally decrease faster than linearly as phytoplankton concentration decreases) can reproduce the fall to spring transition in phytoplankton, including wintertime biomass accumulation. We illustrate this point with a minimal model for the annual cycle of North Atlantic phytoplankton designed to simulate phytoplankton concentration as observed by BioGeoChemical-Argo (BGC-Argo) floats in the North Atlantic. This analysis provides a mathematical framework for assessing hypotheses of phytoplankton bloom formation.
  • Article
    Friction, frontogenesis, and the stratification of the surface mixed layer
    (American Meteorological Society, 2008-11) Thomas, Leif N. ; Ferrari, Raffaele
    The generation and destruction of stratification in the surface mixed layer of the ocean is understood to result from vertical turbulent transport of buoyancy and momentum driven by air–sea fluxes and stresses. In this paper, it is shown that the magnitude and penetration of vertical fluxes are strongly modified by horizontal gradients in buoyancy and momentum. A classic example is the strong restratification resulting from frontogenesis in regions of confluent flow. Frictional forces acting on a baroclinic current either imposed externally by a wind stress or caused by the spindown of the current itself also modify the stratification by driving Ekman flows that differentially advect density. Ekman flow induced during spindown always tends to restratify the fluid, while wind-driven Ekman currents will restratify or destratify the mixed layer if the wind stress has a component up or down front (i.e., directed against or with the geostrophic shear), respectively. Scalings are constructed for the relative importance of friction versus frontogenesis in the restratification of the mixed layer and are tested using numerical experiments of mixed layer fronts forced by both winds and a strain field. The scalings suggest and the numerical experiments confirm that for wind stress magnitudes, mixed layer depths, and cross-front density gradients typical of the ocean, wind-induced friction often dominates frontogenesis in the modification of the stratification of the upper ocean. The experiments reveal that wind-induced destratification is weaker in magnitude than restratification because the stratification generated by up-front winds confines the turbulent stress to a depth shallower than the Ekman layer, which enhances the frictional force, Ekman flow, and differential advection of density. Frictional destratification is further reduced over restratification because the stress associated with the geostrophic shear at the surface tends to compensate a down-front wind stress.
  • Article
    The impact of finite-amplitude bottom topography on internal wave generation in the Southern Ocean
    (American Meteorological Society, 2014-11) Nikurashin, Maxim ; Ferrari, Raffaele ; Grisouard, Nicolas ; Polzin, Kurt L.
    Direct observations in the Southern Ocean report enhanced internal wave activity and turbulence in a kilometer-thick layer above rough bottom topography collocated with the deep-reaching fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Linear theory, corrected for finite-amplitude topography based on idealized, two-dimensional numerical simulations, has been recently used to estimate the global distribution of internal wave generation by oceanic currents and eddies. The global estimate shows that the topographic wave generation is a significant sink of energy for geostrophic flows and a source of energy for turbulent mixing in the deep ocean. However, comparison with recent observations from the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean shows that the linear theory predictions and idealized two-dimensional simulations grossly overestimate the observed levels of turbulent energy dissipation. This study presents two- and three-dimensional, realistic topography simulations of internal lee-wave generation from a steady flow interacting with topography with parameters typical of Drake Passage. The results demonstrate that internal wave generation at three-dimensional, finite bottom topography is reduced compared to the two-dimensional case. The reduction is primarily associated with finite-amplitude bottom topography effects that suppress vertical motions and thus reduce the amplitude of the internal waves radiated from topography. The implication of these results for the global lee-wave generation is discussed.