skip to main content

Title: Tidally Forced Lee Waves Drive Turbulent Mixing Along the Arctic Ocean Margins

In the Arctic Ocean, limited measurements indicate that the strongest mixing below the atmospherically forced surface mixed layer occurs where tidal currents are strong. However, mechanisms of energy conversion from tides to turbulence and the overall contribution of tidally driven mixing to Arctic Ocean state are poorly understood. We present measurements from the shelf north of Svalbard that show abrupt isopycnal vertical displacements of 10–50 m and intense dissipation associated with cross‐isobath diurnal tidal currents of0.15 m s−1. Energy from the barotropic tide accumulated in a trapped baroclinic lee wave during maximum downslope flow and was released around slack water. During a 6‐hr turbulent event, high‐frequency internal waves were present, the full 300‐m depth water column became turbulent, dissipation rates increased by a factor of 100, and turbulent heat flux averaged 15 W m−2compared with the background rate of 1 W m−2.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Ocean turbulent mixing is a key process affecting the uptake and redistribution of heat, carbon, nutrients, oxygen and other dissolved gasses. Vertical turbulent diffusivity sets the rates of water mass transformations and ocean mixing, and is intrinsically an average quantity over process time scales. Estimates based on microstructure profiling, however, are typically obtained as averages over individual profiles. How representative such averaged diffusivities are, remains unexplored in the quiescent Arctic Ocean. Here, we compare upper ocean vertical diffusivities in winter, derived from the7Be tracer‐based approach to those estimated from direct turbulence measurements during the year‐long Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition, 2019–2020. We found that diffusivity estimates from both methods agree within their respective measurement uncertainties. Diffusivity estimates obtained from dissipation rate profiles are sensitive to the averaging method applied, and the processing and analysis of similar data sets must take this sensitivity into account. Our findings indicate low characteristic diffusivities around 10−6 m2 s−1and correspondingly low vertical heat fluxes.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Pacific Summer Water eddies and intrusions transport heat and salt from boundary regions into the western Arctic basin. Here we examine concurrent effects of lateral stirring and vertical mixing using microstructure data collected within a Pacific Summer Water intrusion with a length scale of ∼20 km. This intrusion was characterized by complex thermohaline structure in which warm Pacific Summer Water interleaved in alternating layers ofm thickness with cooler water, due to lateral stirring and intrusive processes. Along interfaces between warm/salty and cold/freshwater masses, the density ratio was favorable to double-diffusive processes. The rate of dissipation of turbulent kinetic energy (ε) was elevated along the interleaving surfaces, with values up to 3 × 10−8W kg−1compared to backgroundεof less than 10−9W kg−1. Based on the distribution ofεas a function of density ratioRρ, we conclude that double-diffusive convection is largely responsible for the elevatedεobserved over the survey. The lateral processes that created the layered thermohaline structure resulted in vertical thermohaline gradients susceptible to double-diffusive convection, resulting in upward vertical heat fluxes. Bulk vertical heat fluxes above the intrusion are estimated in the range of 0.2–1 W m−2, with the localized flux above the uppermost warm layer elevated to 2–10 W m−2. Lateral fluxes are much larger, estimated between 1000 and 5000 W m−2, and set an overall decay rate for the intrusion of 1–5 years.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    This study presents recent observations to quantify oceanic heat fluxes along the continental slope of the Eurasian part of the Arctic Ocean, in order to understand the dominant processes leading to the observed along‐track heat loss of the Arctic Boundary Current (ABC). We investigate the fate of warm Atlantic Water (AW) along the Arctic Ocean continental margin of the Siberian Seas based on 11 cross‐slope conductivity, temperature, depth transects and direct heat flux estimates from microstructure profiles obtained in summer 2018. The ABC loses on average(108) J m−2per 100 km during its propagation along the Siberian shelves, corresponding to an average heat flux of 47 W m−2out of the AW layer. The measured vertical heat flux on the upper AW interface of on average 10 W m−2in the deep basin, and 3.7 W m−2above the continental slope is larger than previously reported values. Still, these heat fluxes explain less than 20% of the observed heat loss within the boundary current. Heat fluxes are significantly increased in the turbulent near‐bottom layer, where AW intersects the continental slope, and at the lee side of a topographic irregularity. This indicates that mixing with ambient colder water along the continental margins is an important contribution to AW heat loss. Furthermore, the cold halocline layer receives approximately the same amount of heat due to upward mixing from the AW, compared to heat input from the summer‐warmed surface layer above. This underlines the importance of both surface warming and increased vertical mixing in a future ice‐free Arctic Ocean in summer.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Enhanced diapycnal mixing induced by the near-bottom breaking of internal waves is an essential component of the lower meridional overturning circulation. Despite its crucial role in the ocean circulation, tidally driven internal wave breaking is challenging to observe due to its inherently short spatial and temporal scales. We present detailed moored and shipboard observations that resolve the spatiotemporal variability of the tidal response over a small-scale bump embedded in the continental slope of Tasmania. Cross-shore tidal currents drive a nonlinear trapped response over the steep bottom around the bump. The observations are roughly consistent with two-dimensional high-mode tidal lee-wave theory. However, the alongshore tidal velocities are large, suggesting that the alongshore bathymetric variability modulates the tidal response driven by the cross-shore tidal flow. The semidiurnal tide and energy dissipation rate are correlated at subtidal time scales, but with complex temporal variability. Energy dissipation from a simple scattering model shows that the elevated near-bottom turbulence can be sustained by the impinging mode-1 internal tide, where the dissipation over the bump isO(1%) of the incident depth-integrated energy flux. Despite this small fraction, tidal dissipation is enhanced over the bump due to steep topography at a horizontal scale ofO(1) km and may locally drive significant diapycnal mixing.

    Significance Statement

    Near-bottom turbulent mixing is a key element of the global abyssal circulation. We present observations of the spatiotemporal variability of tidally driven turbulent processes over a small-scale topographic bump off Tasmania. The semidiurnal tide generates large-amplitude transient lee waves and hydraulic jumps that are unstable and dissipate the tidal energy. These processes are consistent with the scattering of the incident low-mode internal tide on the continental slope of Tasmania. Despite elevated turbulence over the bump, near-bottom energy dissipation is small relative to the incident wave energy flux.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    At present, tides supply approximately half (1 TW) of the energy necessary to sustain the global deep meridional overturning circulation (MOC) through diapycnal mixing. During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; 19,000–26,500 years BP), tidal dissipation in the open ocean may have strongly increased due to the 120‐ to 130‐m global mean sea level drop and changes in ocean basin shape. However, few investigations into LGM climate and ocean circulation consider LGM tidal mixing changes. Here, using an intermediate complexity climate model, we present a detailed investigation on how changes in tidal dissipation would affect the global MOC. Present‐day and LGM tidal constituents M2, S2, K1, and O1are simulated using a tide model and accounting for LGM bathymetric changes. The tide model results suggest that the LGM energy supply to the internal wave field was 1.8–3 times larger than at present and highly sensitive to Antarctic and Laurentide ice sheet extent. Including realistic LGM tide forcing in the LGM climate simulations leads to large increases in Atlantic diapycnal diffusivities and strengthens (by 14–64% at 32°S) and deepens the Atlantic MOC. Increased input of tidal energy leads to a greater drawdown of North Atlantic Deep Water and mixing with Antarctic Bottom Water altering Atlantic temperature and salinity distributions. Our results imply that changes in tidal dissipation need be accounted for in paleoclimate simulation setup as they can lead to large differences in ocean mixing, the global MOC, and presumably also ocean carbon and other biogeochemical cycles.

    more » « less