Near-inertial and thermal upper ocean response to atmospheric forcing in the North Atlantic Ocean
Silverthorne, Katherine E.
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LocationNorth Atlantic Ocean
Observational and modeling techniques are employed to investigate the thermal and inertial upper ocean response to wind and buoyancy forcing in the North Atlantic Ocean. First, the seasonal kinetic energy variability of near-inertial motions observed with a moored profiler is described. Observed wintertime enhancement and surface intensification of near-inertial kinetic energy support previous work suggesting that near-inertial motions are predominantly driven by surface forcing. The wind energy input into surface ocean near-inertial motions is estimated using the Price-Weller- Pinkel (PWP) one-dimensional mixed layer model. A localized depth-integrated model consisting of a wind forcing term and a dissipation parameterization is developed and shown to have skill capturing the seasonal cycle and order of magnitude of the near-inertial kinetic energy. Focusing in on wintertime storm passage, velocity and density records from drifting profiling floats (EM-APEX) and a meteorological spar buoy/tethered profiler system (ASIS/FILIS) deployed in the Gulf Stream in February 2007 as part of the CLIvar MOde water Dynamics Experiment (CLIMODE) were analyzed. Despite large surface heat loss during cold air outbreaks and the drifting nature of the instruments, changes in the upper ocean heat content were found in a mixed layer heat balance to be controlled primarily by the relative advection of temperature associated with the strong vertical shear of the Gulf Stream. Velocity records from the Gulf Stream exhibited energetic near-inertial oscillations with frequency that was shifted below the local resting inertial frequency. This depression of frequency was linked to the presence of the negative vorticity of the background horizontal current shear, implying the potential for near-inertial wave trapping in the Gulf Stream region through the mechanism described by Kunze and Sanford (1984). Three-dimensional PWP model simulations show evidence of near-inertial wave trapping in the Gulf Stream jet, and are used to quantify the resulting mixing and the effect on the stratification in the Eighteen Degree Water formation region.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution June 2010
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