skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Abernathey, Ryan P."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Abstract Oceanic mesoscale motions including eddies, meanders, fronts, and filaments comprise a dominant fraction of oceanic kinetic energy and contribute to the redistribution of tracers in the ocean such as heat, salt, and nutrients. This reservoir of mesoscale energy is regulated by the conversion of potential energy and transfers of kinetic energy across spatial scales. Whether and under what circumstances mesoscale turbulence precipitates forward or inverse cascades, and the rates of these cascades, remain difficult to directly observe and quantify despite their impacts on physical and biological processes. Here we use global observations to investigate the seasonality of surface kinetic energy and upper-ocean potential energy. We apply spatial filters to along-track satellite measurements of sea surface height to diagnose surface eddy kinetic energy across 60–300-km scales. A geographic and scale-dependent seasonal cycle appears throughout much of the midlatitudes, with eddy kinetic energy at scales less than 60 km peaking 1–4 months before that at 60–300-km scales. Spatial patterns in this lag align with geographic regions where an Argo-derived estimate of the conversion of potential to kinetic energy is seasonally varying. In midlatitudes, the conversion rate peaks 0–2 months prior to kinetic energy at scales less than 60 km. The consistent geographic patterns between the seasonality of potential energy conversion and kinetic energy across spatial scale provide observational evidence for the inverse cascade and demonstrate that some component of it is seasonally modulated. Implications for mesoscale parameterizations and numerical modeling are discussed. Significance Statement This study investigates the seasonality of upper-ocean potential and kinetic energy in the context of an inverse cascade, consisting of energy transfers to and through the mesoscale. Observations show a scale-dependent cycle in kinetic energy that coincides with temporal variability in mixed layer potential energy and progresses seasonally from smaller to larger scales. This pattern appears dominant over large regions of the ocean. Results are relevant to ocean and climate models, where a large fraction of ocean energy is often parameterized. A customizable code repository and dataset are provided to enable comparisons of model-based resolved and unresolved kinetic energy to observational equivalents. Implications result for a range of processes including mixed layer stratification and vertical structure of ocean currents. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Variation in upper ocean heat content is a critical factor in understanding global climate variability. Using temperature anomaly budgets in a two-decade-long physically consistent ocean state estimate (ECCOv4r3, 1992-2015), we describe the balance between atmospheric forcing and ocean transport mechanisms for different depth horizons and at varying temporal and spatial resolutions. Advection dominates in the tropics, while forcing is most relevant at higher latitudes and in parts of the subtropics, but the balance of dominant processes changes when integrating over greater depths and considering longer time scales. While forcing is shown to increase with coarser resolution, overall the heat budget balance between it and advection is remarkably insensitive to spatial scale. A novel perspective on global ocean heat content variability was made possible by combining unsupervised classification with a measure of temporal variability in heat budget terms to identify coherent dynamical regimes with similar underlying mechanisms, which are consistent with prior research. The vast majority of the ocean includes significant contributions by both forcing and advection. However advection-driven regions were identified that coincide with strong currents, such as western boundary currents, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the tropics, while forcing-driven regions were defined by shallower wintertime mixed layers and weak velocity fields. This identification of comprehensive dynamical regimes and the sensitivity of the ocean heat budget analysis to exact resolution (for different depth horizons and at varying temporal and spatial resolutions) should provide a useful orientation for future studies of ocean heat content variability in specific ocean regions. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Computational oceanography is the study of ocean phenomena by numerical simulation, especially dynamical and physical phenomena. Progress in information technology has driven exponential growth in the number of global ocean observations and the fidelity of numerical simulations of the ocean in the past few decades. The growth has been exponentially faster for ocean simulations, however. We argue that this faster growth is shifting the importance of field measurements and numerical simulations for oceanographic research. It is leading to the maturation of computational oceanography as a branch of marine science on par with observational oceanography. One implication is that ultraresolved ocean simulations are only loosely constrained by observations. Another implication is that barriers to analyzing the output of such simulations should be removed. Although some specific limits and challenges exist, many opportunities are identified for the future of computational oceanography. Most important is the prospect of hybrid computational and observational approaches to advance understanding of the ocean. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract. With the increase in computational power, ocean models with kilometer-scale resolution have emerged over the last decade. These models have been used for quantifying the energetic exchanges between spatial scales, informing the design of eddy parametrizations, and preparing observing networks. The increase in resolution, however, has drastically increased the size of model outputs, making it difficult to transfer and analyze the data. It remains, nonetheless, of primary importance to assess more systematically the realism of these models. Here, we showcase a cloud-based analysis framework proposed by the Pangeo project that aims to tackle such distribution and analysis challenges. We analyze the output of eight submesoscale-permitting simulations, all on the cloud, for a crossover region of the upcoming Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) altimeter mission near the Gulf Stream separation. The cloud-based analysis framework (i) minimizes the cost of duplicating and storing ghost copies of data and (ii) allows for seamless sharing of analysis results amongst collaborators. We describe the framework and provide example analyses (e.g., sea-surface height variability, submesoscale vertical buoyancy fluxes, and comparison to predictions from the mixed-layer instability parametrization). Basin- to global-scale, submesoscale-permitting models are still at their early stage of development; their cost and carbon footprints are also rather large. It would, therefore, benefit the community to document the different model configurations for future best practices. We also argue that an emphasis on data analysis strategies would be crucial for improving the models themselves. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
  6. The Southern Ocean overturning circulation is driven by winds, heat fluxes, and freshwater sources. Among these sources of freshwater, Antarctic sea-ice formation and melting play the dominant role. Even though ice-shelf melt is relatively small in magnitude, it is located close to regions of convection, where it may influence dense water formation. Here, we explore the impacts of ice-shelf melting on Southern Ocean water mass transformation (WMT) using simulations from the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) both with and without the explicit representation of melt fluxes from beneath Antarctic ice shelves. We find that ice-shelf melting enhances transformation of Upper Circumpolar Deep Water (UCDW), converting it to lower density values. While the overall differences in Southern Ocean WMT between the two simulations are moderate, freshwater fluxes produced by ice-shelf melting have a further, indirect impact on the Southern Ocean overturning circulation through their interaction with sea-ice formation and melting, which also cause considerable upwelling. We further find that surface freshening and cooling by ice-shelf melting causes increased Antarctic sea-ice production and stronger density stratification near the Antarctic coast. In addition, ice-shelf melting causes decreasing air temperature, which may be directly related to sea-ice expansion. The increased stratification reduces vertical heat transport from the deeper ocean. Although the addition of ice-shelf melting processes leads to no significant changes in Southern Ocean WMT, the simulations and analysis conducted here point to a relationship between increased Antarctic ice-shelf melting and the increased role of sea ice in Southern Ocean overturning. 
    more » « less