Legg Sonya

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  • Article
    Rapid mixing and exchange of deep-ocean waters in an abyssal boundary current.
    (National Academy of Sciences, 2019-07-02) Naveira Garabato, Alberto C. ; Frajka-Williams, Eleanor E. ; Spingys, Carl P. ; Legg, Sonya ; Polzin, Kurt L. ; Forryan, Alexander ; Abrahamsen, E. Povl ; Buckingham, Christian E. ; Griffies, Stephen M. ; McPhail, Stephen D. ; Nicholls, Keith W. ; Thomas, Leif N. ; Meredith, Michael P.
    The overturning circulation of the global ocean is critically shaped by deep-ocean mixing, which transforms cold waters sinking at high latitudes into warmer, shallower waters. The effectiveness of mixing in driving this transformation is jointly set by two factors: the intensity of turbulence near topography and the rate at which well-mixed boundary waters are exchanged with the stratified ocean interior. Here, we use innovative observations of a major branch of the overturning circulation—an abyssal boundary current in the Southern Ocean—to identify a previously undocumented mixing mechanism, by which deep-ocean waters are efficiently laundered through intensified near-boundary turbulence and boundary–interior exchange. The linchpin of the mechanism is the generation of submesoscale dynamical instabilities by the flow of deep-ocean waters along a steep topographic boundary. As the conditions conducive to this mode of mixing are common to many abyssal boundary currents, our findings highlight an imperative for its representation in models of oceanic overturning.
  • Preprint
    The formation and fate of internal waves in the South China Sea
    ( 2015-03) Alford, Matthew H. ; Peacock, Thomas ; MacKinnon, Jennifer A. ; Nash, Jonathan D. ; Buijsman, Maarten C. ; Centurioni, Luca R. ; Chao, Shenn-Yu ; Chang, Ming-Huei ; Farmer, David M. ; Fringer, Oliver B. ; Fu, Ke-Hsien ; Gallacher, Patrick C. ; Graber, Hans C. ; Helfrich, Karl R. ; Jachec, Steven M. ; Jackson, Christopher R. ; Klymak, Jody M. ; Ko, Dong S. ; Jan, Sen ; Johnston, T. M. Shaun ; Legg, Sonya ; Lee, I-Huan ; Lien, Ren-Chieh ; Mercier, Matthieu J. ; Moum, James N. ; Musgrave, Ruth C. ; Park, Jae-Hun ; Pickering, Andrew I. ; Pinkel, Robert ; Rainville, Luc ; Ramp, Steven R. ; Rudnick, Daniel L. ; Sarkar, Sutanu ; Scotti, Alberto ; Simmons, Harper L. ; St Laurent, Louis C. ; Venayagamoorthy, Subhas K. ; Wang, Yu-Huai ; Wang, Joe ; Yang, Yiing-Jang ; Paluszkiewicz, Theresa ; Tang, Tswen Yung
    Internal gravity waves, the subsurface analogue of the familiar surface gravity waves that break on beaches, are ubiquitous in the ocean. Because of their strong vertical and horizontal currents, and the turbulent mixing caused by their breaking, they impact a panoply of ocean processes, such as the supply of nutrients for photosynthesis1, sediment and pollutant transport2 and acoustic transmission3; they also pose hazards for manmade structures in the ocean4. Generated primarily by the wind and the tides, internal waves can travel thousands of kilometres from their sources before breaking5, posing severe challenges for their observation and their inclusion in numerical climate models, which are sensitive to their effects6-7. Over a decade of studies8-11 have targeted the South China Sea, where the oceans’ most powerful internal waves are generated in the Luzon Strait and steepen dramatically as they propagate west. Confusion has persisted regarding their generation mechanism, variability and energy budget, however, due to the lack of in-situ data from the Luzon Strait, where extreme flow conditions make measurements challenging. Here we employ new observations and numerical models to (i) show that the waves begin as sinusoidal disturbances rather than from sharp hydraulic phenomena, (ii) reveal the existence of >200-m-high breaking internal waves in the generation region that give rise to turbulence levels >10,000 times that in the open ocean, (iii) determine that the Kuroshio western boundary current significantly refracts the internal wave field emanating from the Luzon Strait, and (iv) demonstrate a factor-of-two agreement between modelled and observed energy fluxes that enables the first observationally-supported energy budget of the region. Together, these findings give a cradle-to-grave picture of internal waves on a basin scale, which will support further improvements of their representation in numerical climate predictions.
  • Article
    Improving oceanic overflow representation in climate models : the Gravity Current Entrainment Climate Process Team
    (American Meteorological Society, 2009-05) Legg, Sonya ; Ezer, Tal ; Jackson, Laura ; Briegleb, Bruce P. ; Danabasoglu, Gokhan ; Large, William G. ; Wu, Wanli ; Chang, Yeon ; Ozgokmen, Tamay M. ; Peters, Hartmut ; Xu, Xiaobiao ; Chassignet, Eric P. ; Gordon, Arnold L. ; Griffies, Stephen M. ; Hallberg, Robert ; Price, James F. ; Riemenschneider, Ulrike ; Yang, Jiayan
    Oceanic overflows are bottom-trapped density currents originating in semienclosed basins, such as the Nordic seas, or on continental shelves, such as the Antarctic shelf. Overflows are the source of most of the abyssal waters, and therefore play an important role in the large-scale ocean circulation, forming a component of the sinking branch of the thermohaline circulation. As they descend the continental slope, overflows mix vigorously with the surrounding oceanic waters, changing their density and transport significantly. These mixing processes occur on spatial scales well below the resolution of ocean climate models, with the result that deep waters and deep western boundary currents are simulated poorly. The Gravity Current Entrainment Climate Process Team was established by the U.S. Climate Variability and Prediction (CLIVAR) Program to accelerate the development and implementation of improved representations of overflows within large-scale climate models, bringing together climate model developers with those conducting observational, numerical, and laboratory process studies of overflows. Here, the organization of the Climate Process Team is described, and a few of the successes and lessons learned during this collaboration are highlighted, with some emphasis on the well-observed Mediterranean overflow. The Climate Process Team has developed several different overflow parameterizations, which are examined in a hierarchy of ocean models, from comparatively well-resolved regional models to the largest-scale global climate models.
  • Article
    Mixing and transformation in a deep western boundary current: a case study
    (American Meteorological Society, 2021-03-29) Spingys, Carl P. ; Naveira Garabato, Alberto C. ; Legg, Sonya ; Polzin, Kurt L. ; Abrahamsen, E. Povl ; Buckingham, Christian E. ; Forryan, Alexander ; Frajka-Williams, Eleanor E.
    Water-mass transformation by turbulent mixing is a key part of the deep-ocean overturning, as it drives the upwelling of dense waters formed at high latitudes. Here, we quantify this transformation and its underpinning processes in a small Southern Ocean basin: the Orkney Deep. Observations reveal a focusing of the transport in density space as a deep western boundary current (DWBC) flows through the region, associated with lightening and densification of the current’s denser and lighter layers, respectively. These transformations are driven by vigorous turbulent mixing. Comparing this transformation with measurements of the rate of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation indicates that, within the DWBC, turbulence operates with a high mixing efficiency, characterized by a dissipation ratio of 0.6 to 1 that exceeds the common value of 0.2. This result is corroborated by estimates of the dissipation ratio from microstructure observations. The causes of the transformation are unraveled through a decomposition into contributions dependent on the gradients in density space of the: dianeutral mixing rate, isoneutral area, and stratification. The transformation is found to be primarily driven by strong turbulence acting on an abrupt transition from the weakly stratified bottom boundary layer to well-stratified off-boundary waters. The reduced boundary layer stratification is generated by a downslope Ekman flow associated with the DWBC’s flow along sloping topography, and is further regulated by submesoscale instabilities acting to restratify near-boundary waters. Our results provide observational evidence endorsing the importance of near-boundary mixing processes to deep-ocean overturning, and highlight the role of DWBCs as hot spots of dianeutral upwelling.
  • Article
    Sensitivity of the ocean state to the vertical distribution of internal-tide-driven mixing
    (American Meteorological Society, 2013-03) Melet, Angelique ; Hallberg, Robert ; Legg, Sonya ; Polzin, Kurt L.
    The ocean interior stratification and meridional overturning circulation are largely sustained by diapycnal mixing. The breaking of internal tides is a major source of diapycnal mixing. Many recent climate models parameterize internal-tide breaking using the scheme of St. Laurent et al. While this parameterization dynamically accounts for internal-tide generation, the vertical distribution of the resultant mixing is ad hoc, prescribing energy dissipation to decay exponentially above the ocean bottom with a fixed-length scale. Recently, Polzin formulated a dynamically based parameterization, in which the vertical profile of dissipation decays algebraically with a varying decay scale, accounting for variable stratification using Wentzel–Kramers–Brillouin (WKB) stretching. This study compares two simulations using the St. Laurent and Polzin formulations in the Climate Model, version 2G (CM2G), ocean–ice–atmosphere coupled model, with the same formulation for internal-tide energy input. Focusing mainly on the Pacific Ocean, where the deep low-frequency variability is relatively small, the authors show that the ocean state shows modest but robust and significant sensitivity to the vertical profile of internal-tide-driven mixing. Therefore, not only the energy input to the internal tides matters, but also where in the vertical it is dissipated.
  • Article
    Climate Process Team on internal wave–driven ocean mixing
    (American Meteorological Society, 2017-12-01) MacKinnon, Jennifer A. ; Zhao, Zhongxiang ; Whalen, Caitlin B. ; Waterhouse, Amy F. ; Trossman, David S. ; Sun, Oliver M. ; St. Laurent, Louis C. ; Simmons, Harper L. ; Polzin, Kurt L. ; Pinkel, Robert ; Pickering, Andrew I. ; Norton, Nancy J. ; Nash, Jonathan D. ; Musgrave, Ruth C. ; Merchant, Lynne M. ; Melet, Angelique ; Mater, Benjamin D. ; Legg, Sonya ; Large, William G. ; Kunze, Eric ; Klymak, Jody M. ; Jochum, Markus ; Jayne, Steven R. ; Hallberg, Robert ; Griffies, Stephen M. ; Diggs, Stephen ; Danabasoglu, Gokhan ; Chassignet, Eric P. ; Buijsman, Maarten C. ; Bryan, Frank O. ; Briegleb, Bruce P. ; Barna, Andrew ; Arbic, Brian K. ; Ansong, Joseph ; Alford, Matthew H.
    Diapycnal mixing plays a primary role in the thermodynamic balance of the ocean and, consequently, in oceanic heat and carbon uptake and storage. Though observed mixing rates are on average consistent with values required by inverse models, recent attention has focused on the dramatic spatial variability, spanning several orders of magnitude, of mixing rates in both the upper and deep ocean. Away from ocean boundaries, the spatiotemporal patterns of mixing are largely driven by the geography of generation, propagation, and dissipation of internal waves, which supply much of the power for turbulent mixing. Over the last 5 years and under the auspices of U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability Program (CLIVAR), a National Science Foundation (NSF)- and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-supported Climate Process Team has been engaged in developing, implementing, and testing dynamics-based parameterizations for internal wave–driven turbulent mixing in global ocean models. The work has primarily focused on turbulence 1) near sites of internal tide generation, 2) in the upper ocean related to wind-generated near inertial motions, 3) due to internal lee waves generated by low-frequency mesoscale flows over topography, and 4) at ocean margins. Here, we review recent progress, describe the tools developed, and discuss future directions.
  • Preprint
    Preliminary simulations of internal waves and mixing generated by finite amplitude tidal flow over isolated topography
    ( 2005-09-29) Legg, Sonya ; Huijts, Karin M. H.
    Much recent observational evidence suggests that energy from the barotropic tides may be used for mixing in the deep ocean. Here the process of internal tide generation and dissipation by tidal flow over an isolated Gaussian topography is examined, using 2-dimensional numerical simulations employing the MITgcm. Four different topographies are considered, for five different amplitudes of barotropic forcing, thereby allowing a variety of combinations of key nondimensional parameters. While much recent attention has focused on the role of relative topographic steepness and height in modifying the rate of conversion of energy from barotropic to baroclinic modes, here attention is focused on parameters dependent on the flow amplitude. For narrow topography, large amplitude forcing gives rise to baroclinic responses at higher harmonics of the forcing frequency. Tall narrow topographies are found to be the most conducive to mixing. Dissipation rates in these calculations are most efficient for the narrowest topography.