The 3D oceanic mixed layer response to Hurricane Gilbert

S. D. Jacob, L. K. Shay, A. J. Mariano, P. G. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Upper-ocean heat and mass budgets are examined from three snapshots of data acquired during and after the passage of Hurricane Gilbert in the western Gulf of Mexico. Measurements prior to storm passage indicated a warm core eddy in the region with velocities of O(1) m s-1. Based upon conservation of heat and mass, the three-dimensional mixed layer processes are quantified from the data. During and subsequent to hurricane passage, horizontal advection due to geostrophic velocities is significant in the eddy regime, suggesting that prestorm oceanic variability is important when background flows have the same magnitude as the mixed layer current response. Storm-induced near-inertial currents lead to large vertical advection magnitudes as they diverge from and converge toward the storm track. Surface fluxes, estimated by reducing flight-level winds to 10 m, indicate a maximum wind stress of 4.2 N m-2 and a heat flux of 1200 W m-2 in the directly forced region. The upward heat flux after the passage of the storm has a maximum of 200 W m-2 corresponding to a less than 7 m s-1 wind speed. Entrainment mixing across the mixed layer base is estimated using three bulk entrainment closure schemes that differ in their physical basis of parameterization. Entrainment remains the dominant mechanism in controlling the heat and mass budgets irrespective of the scheme. Depending on the magnitudes of friction velocity, surface fluxes and/or shear across the mixed layer base, the pattern and location of maximum entrainment rates differ in the directly forced region. While the general area of maximum entrainment is in the right-rear quadrant of the storm, shear-induced entrainment scheme predicts a narrow region of cooling compared to the the stress-induced mixing scheme and observed SST decreases. After the storm passage, the maximum contribution to the mixed layer dynamics is associated with shear-induced entrainment mixing forced by near-inertial motions up to the third day as indicated by bulk Richardson numbers that remained below criticality. Thus, entrainment based on a combination of surface fluxes, friction velocity and shear across the entrainment zone may be more relevant for three-dimensional ocean response studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1407-1429
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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