National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2017

Seaglider surveys at Ocean Station Papa: Diagnosis of upper-ocean heat and salt balances using least-squares with inequality constraints

Pelland, N.A., C.C. Eriksen, and M.F. Cronin

J. Geophys. Res., 122(6), 5140–5168, doi: 10.1002/2017JC012821 (2017)

Heat and salt balances in the upper 200 m are examined using data from Seaglider spatial surveys June 2008 to January 2010 surrounding a NOAA surface mooring at Ocean Station Papa (OSP; 50°N, 145°W). A least-squares approach is applied to repeat Seaglider survey and moored measurements to solve for unknown or uncertain monthly three-dimensional circulation and vertical diffusivity. Within the surface boundary layer, the estimated heat and salt balances are dominated throughout the surveys by turbulent flux, vertical advection, and for heat, radiative absorption. When vertically integrated balances are considered, an estimated upwelling of cool water balances the net surface input of heat, while the corresponding large import of salt across the halocline due to upwelling and diffusion is balanced by surface moisture input and horizontal import of fresh water. Measurement of horizontal gradients allows the estimation of unresolved vertical terms over more than one annual cycle; diffusivity in the upper-ocean transition layer decreases rapidly to the depth of the maximum near-surface stratification in all months, with weak seasonal modulation in the rate of decrease and profile amplitude. Vertical velocity is estimated to be on average upward but with important monthly variations. Results support and expand existing evidence concerning the importance of horizontal advection in the balances of heat and salt in the Gulf of Alaska, highlight time and depth variability in difficult-to-measure vertical transports in the upper ocean, and suggest avenues of further study in future observational work at OSP.

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