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Ocean Eddy Dynamics in a Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Model

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  • 1 Physical Oceanography Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • | 2 Department of Oceanography, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
  • | 3 Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • | 4 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
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Abstract

The role of mesoscale oceanic eddies is analyzed in a quasigeostrophic coupled ocean–atmosphere model operating at a large Reynolds number. The model dynamics are characterized by decadal variability that involves nonlinear adjustment of the ocean to coherent north–south shifts of the atmosphere. The oceanic eddy effects are diagnosed by the dynamical decomposition method adapted for nonstationary external forcing. The main effects of the eddies are an enhancement of the oceanic eastward jet separating the subpolar and subtropical gyres and a weakening of the gyres. The flow-enhancing effect is due to nonlinear rectification driven by fluctuations of the eddy forcing. This is a nonlocal process involving generation of the eddies by the flow instabilities in the western boundary current and the upstream part of the eastward jet. The eddies are advected by the mean current to the east, where they backscatter into the rectified enhancement of the eastward jet. The gyre-weakening effect, which is due to the time-mean buoyancy component of the eddy forcing, is a result of the baroclinic instability of the westward return currents. The diagnosed eddy forcing is parameterized in a non-eddy-resolving ocean model, as a nonstationary random process, in which the corresponding parameters are derived from the control coupled simulation. The key parameter of the random process—its variance—is related to the large-scale flow baroclinicity index. It is shown that the coupled model with the non-eddy-resolving ocean component and the parameterized eddies correctly simulates climatology and low-frequency variability of the control eddy-resolving coupled solution.

* Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Contribution Number 11387

Corresponding author address: P. Berloff, Physical Oceanography Dept., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: pberloff@whoi.edu

Abstract

The role of mesoscale oceanic eddies is analyzed in a quasigeostrophic coupled ocean–atmosphere model operating at a large Reynolds number. The model dynamics are characterized by decadal variability that involves nonlinear adjustment of the ocean to coherent north–south shifts of the atmosphere. The oceanic eddy effects are diagnosed by the dynamical decomposition method adapted for nonstationary external forcing. The main effects of the eddies are an enhancement of the oceanic eastward jet separating the subpolar and subtropical gyres and a weakening of the gyres. The flow-enhancing effect is due to nonlinear rectification driven by fluctuations of the eddy forcing. This is a nonlocal process involving generation of the eddies by the flow instabilities in the western boundary current and the upstream part of the eastward jet. The eddies are advected by the mean current to the east, where they backscatter into the rectified enhancement of the eastward jet. The gyre-weakening effect, which is due to the time-mean buoyancy component of the eddy forcing, is a result of the baroclinic instability of the westward return currents. The diagnosed eddy forcing is parameterized in a non-eddy-resolving ocean model, as a nonstationary random process, in which the corresponding parameters are derived from the control coupled simulation. The key parameter of the random process—its variance—is related to the large-scale flow baroclinicity index. It is shown that the coupled model with the non-eddy-resolving ocean component and the parameterized eddies correctly simulates climatology and low-frequency variability of the control eddy-resolving coupled solution.

* Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Contribution Number 11387

Corresponding author address: P. Berloff, Physical Oceanography Dept., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543. Email: pberloff@whoi.edu

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