Anticyclonic eddies are more productive than cyclonic eddies in subtropical gyres because of winter mixing.
ABSTRACT: Mesoscale eddies are ubiquitous features of ocean circulation that modulate the supply of nutrients to the upper sunlit ocean, influencing the rates of carbon fixation and export. The popular eddy-pumping paradigm implies that nutrient fluxes are enhanced in cyclonic eddies because of upwelling inside the eddy, leading to higher phytoplankton production. We show that this view does not hold for a substantial portion of eddies within oceanic subtropical gyres, the largest ecosystems in the ocean. Using space-based measurements and a global biogeochemical model, we demonstrate that during winter when subtropical eddies are most productive, there is increased chlorophyll in anticyclones compared with cyclones in all subtropical gyres (by 3.6 to 16.7% for the five basins). The model suggests that this is a consequence of the modulation of winter mixing by eddies. These results establish a new paradigm for anticyclonic eddies in subtropical gyres and could have important implications for the biological carbon pump and the global carbon cycle.
Project description:Vertical heat transport by ocean mesoscale eddies plays an important role in maintaining western boundary current extension fronts. Oceanic fronts associated with strong western boundary current extensions vent a vast amount of heat into the atmosphere, anchoring mid-latitude storm tracks and facilitating ocean carbon sequestration. However, it remains unclear how the surface heat reservoir is replenished by ocean processes to sustain the atmospheric heat uptake. Using high-resolution climate simulations, we find that the vertical heat transport by ocean mesoscale eddies acts as an important heat supplier to the surface ocean in frontal regions. This vertical eddy heat transport is not accounted for by the prevailing inviscid and adiabatic ocean dynamical theories such as baroclinic instability and frontogenesis but is tightly related to the atmospheric forcing. Strong surface cooling associated with intense winds in winter promotes turbulent mixing in the mixed layer, destructing the vertical shear of mesoscale eddies. The restoring of vertical shear induces an ageostrophic secondary circulation transporting heat from the subsurface to surface ocean.
Project description:Oceanic mesoscale eddies with horizontal scales of 50-300?km are the most energetic form of flows in the ocean. They are the oceanic analogues of atmospheric storms and are effective transporters of heat, nutrients, dissolved carbon, and other biochemical materials in the ocean. Although oceanic eddies have been ubiquitously observed in the world oceans since 1960s, our understanding of their three-dimensional (3D) structure, generation, and dissipation remains fragmentary due to lack of systematic full water-depth measurements. To bridge this knowledge gap, we designed and conducted a multi-months field campaign, called the South China Sea Mesoscale Eddy Experiment (S-MEE), in the northern South China Sea in 2013/2014. The S-MEE for the first time captured full-depth 3D structures of an anticyclonic and cyclonic eddy pair, which are characterized by a distinct vertical tilt of their axes. By observing the eddy evolution at an upstream versus downstream location and conducting an eddy energy budget analysis, the authors further proposed that generation of submesoscale motions most likely constitutes the dominant dissipation mechanism for the observed eddies.
Project description:High-resolution satellite measurements of surface winds and sea-surface temperature (SST) reveal strong coupling between meso-scale ocean eddies and near-surface atmospheric flow over eddy-rich oceanic regions, such as the Kuroshio and Gulf Stream, highlighting the importance of meso-scale oceanic features in forcing the atmospheric planetary boundary layer (PBL). Here, we present high-resolution regional climate modeling results, supported by observational analyses, demonstrating that meso-scale SST variability, largely confined in the Kuroshio-Oyashio confluence region (KOCR), can further exert a significant distant influence on winter rainfall variability along the U.S. Northern Pacific coast. The presence of meso-scale SST anomalies enhances the diabatic conversion of latent heat energy to transient eddy energy, intensifying winter cyclogenesis via moist baroclinic instability, which in turn leads to an equivalent barotropic downstream anticyclone anomaly with reduced rainfall. The finding points to the potential of improving forecasts of extratropical winter cyclones and storm systems and projections of their response to future climate change, which are known to have major social and economic impacts, by improving the representation of ocean eddy-atmosphere interaction in forecast and climate models.
Project description:Despite numerous surface eddies are observed in the ocean, deep eddies (a type of eddies which have no footprints at the sea surface) are much less reported in the literature due to the scarcity of their observation. In this letter, from recently collected current and temperature data by mooring arrays, a deep energetic and baroclinic eddy is detected in the northwestern South China Sea (SCS) with its intensity, size, polarity and structure being characterized. It remarkably deepens isotherm at deep layers by the amplitude of ~120?m and induces a maximal velocity amplitude about 0.18?m/s, which is far larger than the median velocity (0.02?m/s). The deep eddy is generated in a wake when a steering flow in the upper layer passes a seamount, induced by a surface cyclonic eddy. More observations suggest that the deep eddy should not be an episode in the area. Deep eddies significantly increase the velocity intensity and enhance the mixing in the deep ocean, also have potential implication for deep-sea sediments transport.
Project description:Strong tropical cyclone (TC) Ockhi occurred in the southeastern Arabian Sea (AS) in 2017. Ockhi greatly changed the oceanic conditions and induced large variation in chlorophyll-a (Chl-a). The dynamic mechanisms of the long-term phytoplankton bloom after the passage of the TC were investigated in this study. Prominent surface ocean responses, e.g., decreasing temperature and salinity, were identified from Argo data by comparing the pre- and post-conditions of the TC. A phytoplankton bloom was observed in southeastern AS after the passage of TC Ockhi within the area of (11°N-14°N, 67°E-70°E) and lasted for seven days. Interestingly, there were two weaker cyclonic eddies, with an average vorticity of less than 0.14 s-1, on the TC trajectory from November 28 to December 2. As Ockhi approached, strong vertical mixing occurred on December 3, increasing the eddy vorticity to 0.26 s-1. After the passage of Ockhi, both eddies, with a two-day oscillation period, were substantially enhanced. Especially from December 11 to 16, the vorticity above 70 m was as high as 0.2 s-1 in the thermocline. Because of the high photosynthetically available radiation (PAR) and low precipitation, the enhanced cyclonic eddies induced upwelling for the entire thermocline for over ten days and uplifted nitrates into the mixed layer. This study offers new insights on the influence of eddies in regulating the impacts of typhoons on Chl-a, and the results can help evaluate typhoon-induced biological responses in the future.
Project description:Mesoscale eddies in the subtropical oligotrophic ocean are ubiquitous and play an important role in nutrient supply and oceanic primary production. However, it is still unclear whether these mesoscale eddies can efficiently transfer CO2 from the atmosphere to deep waters via biological pump because of the sampling difficulty due to their transient nature. In 2007, particulate organic carbon (POC) fluxes, measured below the euphotic zone at the edge of warm eddy were 136-194 mg-C m-2 d-1 which was greatly elevated over that (POC flux = 26-35 mg-C m-2 d-1) determined in the nutrient-depleted oligotrophic waters in the Western North Pacific (WNP). In 2010, higher POC fluxes (83-115 mg-C m-2 d-1) were also observed at the boundary of mesoscale eddies in the WNP. The enhanced POC flux at the edge of eddies was mainly attributed to both large denuded diatom frustules and zooplankton fecal pellets based on scanning electron microscopy (SEM) examination. The result suggests that mesoscale eddies in the oligotrophic waters in the subtropical WNP can efficiently increase the oceanic carbon export flux and the eddy edge is a crucial conduit in carbon sequestration to deep waters.
Project description:In the extratropical regions, surface winds enhance upward heat release from the ocean to atmosphere, resulting in cold surface ocean: surface ocean temperature is negatively correlated with upward heat flux. However, in the western boundary currents and eddy-rich regions, the warmer surface waters compared to surrounding waters enhance upward heat release-a positive correlation between upward heat release and surface ocean temperature, implying that the ocean drives the atmosphere. The atmospheric response to warm mesoscale ocean eddies with a horizontal extent of a few hundred kilometers remains unclear because of a lack of observations. By conducting regional atmospheric model experiments, we show that, in the Kuroshio-Oyashio Confluence region, wintertime warm eddies heat the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL), and accelerate westerly winds in the near-surface atmosphere via the vertical mixing effect, leading to wind convergence around the eastern edge of eddies. The warm-eddy-induced convergence forms local ascending motion where convective precipitation is enhanced, providing diabatic heating to the atmosphere above MABL. Our results indicate that warm eddies affect not only near-surface atmosphere but also free atmosphere, and possibly synoptic atmospheric variability. A detailed understanding of warm eddy-atmosphere interaction is necessary to improve in weather and climate projections.
Project description:Coherent oceanic mesoscale eddies with unique dynamical structures have great impacts on ocean transports and global climate. Eddy kinetic energy (EKE), derived from time-dependent circulation, is commonly used to study mesoscale eddies. However, there are three deficiencies of EKE when focusing on the analysis of coherent mesoscale eddies. Here, we propose a comprehensive concept-Lagrangian EKE (LEKE) as an additional metric which is a combination of gridded EKE calculated in Eulerian framework and tracked coherent mesoscale eddies in Lagrangian framework. Evidences suggest that LEKE can make up these deficiencies as an effective supplement. In this study, regional application over Northwestern Pacific Ocean is taken as an example. It clearly demonstrates that LEKE reveals more accurate and detailed characteristics of both cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies than EKE when coherent mesoscale eddies are the specific focus, such as the variation rates of kinetic energy during the eddy propagation, spatial-temporal differences of kinetic energy between cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies. Overall, using LEKE to analyze coherent mesoscale eddies gives the rise to understand the spatial-temporal contrasts between eddies with different polarities, and provides a new perspective to recognize the crucial role played by coherent mesoscale eddies in the ocean.
Project description:Mesoscale variability and associated eddy fluxes play crucial roles in ocean circulation dynamics and the ecology of the upper ocean. In doing so, these features are biologically important, providing a mechanism for the mixing and exchange of nutrients and biota within the ocean. Transient mesoscale eddies in the Southern Ocean are known to relocate zooplankton communities across the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and are important foraging grounds for marine top predators. In this study we investigated the role of cyclonic and anti-cyclonic eddies formed at the South-West Indian Ridge on the spatial variability and diversity of microbial communities. We focused on two contrasting adjacent eddies within the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone to determine how these features may influence the microbial communities within this region. The water masses and microbiota of the two eddies, representative of a cyclonic cold core from the Antarctic zone and an anti-cyclonic warm-core from the Subantarctic zone, were compared. The data reveal that the two eddies entrain distinct microbial communities from their points of origin that are maintained for up to ten months. Our findings highlight the ecological impact that changes, brought by the translocation of eddies across the ACC, have on microbial diversity.
Project description:Subtropical gyres contribute significantly to global ocean productivity. As the climate warms, the strength of these gyres as a biological carbon pump is predicted to diminish due to increased stratification and depleted surface nutrients. We present results suggesting that the impact of submesoscale physics on phytoplankton in the oligotrophic ocean is substantial and may either compensate or exacerbate future changes in carbon cycling. A new statistical tool was developed to quantify surface patchiness from sea surface temperatures. Chlorophyll concentrations in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre were shown to be enhanced by submesoscale frontal dynamics with an average increase of 38% (maximum of 83%) during late winter. The magnitude of this enhancement is comparable to the observed decline in chlorophyll due to a warming of ~1.1°C. These results highlight the need for an improved understanding of fine-scale physical variability in order to predict the response of marine ecosystems to projected climate changes.