Merckelbach, L. (2016): Depth-averaged instantaneous currents in a tidally dominated shelf sea from glider observations. Biogeosciences, 13, 6637-6649. DOI: 10.5194/bg-13-6637-2016


Ocean gliders have become ubiquitous observation platforms in the ocean in recent years. They are also increasingly used in coastal environments. The coastal observatory system COSYNA has pioneered the use of gliders in the North Sea, a shallow tidally energetic shelf sea. For operational reasons, the gliders operated in the North Sea are programmed to resurface every 3–5 h. The glider’s dead-reckoning algorithm yields depth-averaged currents, averaged in time over each subsurface interval. Under operational conditions these averaged currents are a poor approximation of the instantaneous tidal current. In this work an algorithm is developed that estimates the instantaneous current (tidal and residual) from glider observations only. The algorithm uses a first-order Butterworth low pass filter to estimate the residual current component, and a Kalman filter based on the linear shallow water equations for the tidal component. A comparison of data from a glider experiment with current data from an acoustic Doppler current profilers deployed nearby shows that the standard deviations for the east and north current components are better than 7 cm s−1 in near-real-time mode and improve to better than 6 cm s−1 in delayed mode, where the filters can be run forward and backward. In the near-real-time mode the algorithm provides estimates of the currents that the glider is expected to encounter during its next few dives. Combined with a behavioural and dynamic model of the glider, this yields predicted trajectories, the information of which is incorporated in warning messages issued to ships by the (German) authorities. In delayed mode the algorithm produces useful estimates of the depth-averaged currents, which can be used in (process-based) analyses in case no other source of measured current information is available.

Shibley, N., M.-L. Timmermans, J.R. Carpenter & J. Toole (2017): Spatial variability of the Arctic Ocean’s double-diffusive staircase. Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 122. DOI: 10.1002/2016JC012419


The Arctic Ocean thermohaline stratification frequently exhibits a staircase structure overlying the Atlantic Water Layer that can be attributed to the diffusive form of double-diffusive convection. The staircase consists of multiple layers of O(1) m in thickness separated by sharp interfaces, across which temperature and salinity change abruptly. Through a detailed analysis of Ice-Tethered Profiler measurements from 2004 to 2013, the double-diffusive staircase structure is characterized across the entire Arctic Ocean. We demonstrate how the large-scale Arctic Ocean circulation influences the small-scale staircase properties. These staircase properties (layer thicknesses and temperature and salinity jumps across interfaces) are examined in relation to a bulk vertical density ratio spanning the staircase stratification. We show that the Lomonosov Ridge serves as an approximate boundary between regions of low density ratio (approximately 3–4) on the Eurasian side and higher density ratio (approximately 6–7) on the Canadian side. We find that the Eurasian Basin staircase is characterized by fewer, thinner layers than that in the Canadian Basin, although the margins of all basins are characterized by relatively thin layers and the absence of a well-defined staircase. A double-diffusive 4/3 flux law parametrization is used to estimate vertical heat fluxes in the Canadian Basin to be O(0.1) W m−2. It is shown that the 4/3 flux law may not be an appropriate representation of heat fluxes through the Eurasian Basin staircase. Here molecular heat fluxes are estimated to be between O(0.01) and O(0.1) W m−2. However, many uncertainties remain about the exact nature of these fluxes.

Carpenter, J.R., A. Guha & E. Heifetz (2017): A physical interpretation of the wind-wave instability as interacting waves.  Journal of Physical Oceanography, in press. DOI: 10.1175/JPO-D-16-0206.1


One mechanism for the growth of ocean surface waves by wind is through a shear instability that was first described by Miles (1957). We provide a physical interpretation of this wind-wave instability in terms of the interaction of the surface gravity wave with perturbations of vorticity within the critical layer – a near-singularity in the airflow where the background flow speed matches that of the surface gravity wave. This physical interpretation relies on the fact that the vertical velocity field is slowly varying across the critical layer, whereas both the displacement and vorticity fields vary rapidly. Realising this allows for the construction of a physically intuitive description of the critical layer vorticity perturbations that may be approximated by a simple vortex sheet model. Then the essence of the wind-wave instability can be captured through the interaction of the critical layer vorticity with the surface gravity wave. This simple model is then extended to account for vorticity perturbations in the airflow profile outside of the critical layer, and is found to lead to an exact description of the linear stability problem that is also computationally efficient. Our interpretation allows, in general, for the incorporation of sheared critical layers into the ‘wave interaction theory’ that is commonly used to provide a physical description and rationalisation of results in the stability of stratified shear flows.

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