An Example of Eddy-Induced Ocean Circulation

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80307
  • | 2 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02M3
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Abstract

Gyre scale and local vorticity balances are examined for a single numerical experiment designed to elucidate the role of eddies in the oceanic general circulation. Due to the complex nature of the flow, a combination of different analyses is needed. In particular the mean potential vorticity fields are calculated and related to local and global vorticity fluxes. The nature of eddy generation and decay is discussed in terms of eddy enstrophy balances in the fluid. Momentum balances in various parts of the gyre are deduced through the application of the circulation theorem. Fields of eddy diffusivity for the mixing of potential vorticity and heat are determined. The applicability of Sverdrup dynamics in various parts of the fluid and the manner in which the deep abyssal gyres are driven are examined.

The net picture is a complex but consistent one. In the upper layer, eddy generation occurs in the separation region of the eastward jet and in the region of westward return flow. Eddy decay occurs principally at the eastern end of the free jet accompanied by upgradient eddy fluxes of heat and potential vorticity. The lower layer is driven from above by inviscid pressure forcing at the interface., this is accompanied by downgradient potential vorticity flux everywhere in the lower layer. The deep dynamics is essentially a “turbulent” Sverdrup balance, Ū3·∇ Q̄3= ∇·κ ∇Q̄3, driven by eddy rather than wind stresses.

Abstract

Gyre scale and local vorticity balances are examined for a single numerical experiment designed to elucidate the role of eddies in the oceanic general circulation. Due to the complex nature of the flow, a combination of different analyses is needed. In particular the mean potential vorticity fields are calculated and related to local and global vorticity fluxes. The nature of eddy generation and decay is discussed in terms of eddy enstrophy balances in the fluid. Momentum balances in various parts of the gyre are deduced through the application of the circulation theorem. Fields of eddy diffusivity for the mixing of potential vorticity and heat are determined. The applicability of Sverdrup dynamics in various parts of the fluid and the manner in which the deep abyssal gyres are driven are examined.

The net picture is a complex but consistent one. In the upper layer, eddy generation occurs in the separation region of the eastward jet and in the region of westward return flow. Eddy decay occurs principally at the eastern end of the free jet accompanied by upgradient eddy fluxes of heat and potential vorticity. The lower layer is driven from above by inviscid pressure forcing at the interface., this is accompanied by downgradient potential vorticity flux everywhere in the lower layer. The deep dynamics is essentially a “turbulent” Sverdrup balance, Ū3·∇ Q̄3= ∇·κ ∇Q̄3, driven by eddy rather than wind stresses.

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