Buckingham Christian E.

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Christian E.

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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.
  • 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
    Kinetic energy transfers between mesoscale and submesoscale motions in the open ocean’s upper layers
    (American Meteorological Society, 2022-01-01) Naveira Garabato, Alberto C. ; Yu, Xiaolong ; Callies, Joern ; Barkan, Roy ; Polzin, Kurt L. ; Frajka-Williams, Eleanor E. ; Buckingham, Christian E. ; Griffies, Stephen M.
    Mesoscale eddies contain the bulk of the ocean’s kinetic energy (KE), but fundamental questions remain on the cross-scale KE transfers linking eddy generation and dissipation. The role of submesoscale flows represents the key point of discussion, with contrasting views of submesoscales as either a source or a sink of mesoscale KE. Here, the first observational assessment of the annual cycle of the KE transfer between mesoscale and submesoscale motions is performed in the upper layers of a typical open-ocean region. Although these diagnostics have marginal statistical significance and should be regarded cautiously, they are physically plausible and can provide a valuable benchmark for model evaluation. The cross-scale KE transfer exhibits two distinct stages, whereby submesoscales energize mesoscales in winter and drain mesoscales in spring. Despite this seasonal reversal, an inverse KE cascade operates throughout the year across much of the mesoscale range. Our results are not incompatible with recent modeling investigations that place the headwaters of the inverse KE cascade at the submesoscale, and that rationalize the seasonality of mesoscale KE as an inverse cascade-mediated response to the generation of submesoscales in winter. However, our findings may challenge those investigations by suggesting that, in spring, a downscale KE transfer could dampen the inverse KE cascade. An exploratory appraisal of the dynamics governing mesoscale–submesoscale KE exchanges suggests that the upscale KE transfer in winter is underpinned by mixed layer baroclinic instabilities, and that the downscale KE transfer in spring is associated with frontogenesis. Current submesoscale-permitting ocean models may substantially understate this downscale KE transfer, due to the models’ muted representation of frontogenesis.