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Eddy Transport and Mixing in a Wind- and Buoyancy-Driven Jet on the Sphere

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  • 1 Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

The baroclinically unstable wind- and buoyancy-driven flow in a zonally reentrant pie-shaped sector on a sphere is numerically modeled and then analyzed using the transformed Eulerian-mean (TEM) formalism. Mean fields are obtained by zonal and time averaging performed at fixed height. The very large latitudinal extent of the basin (50.7°S latitude to the equator) allows the latitude variation of the Coriolis parameter to strongly influence the flow. Persistent zonal jets are observed in the statistically steady state. Reynolds stress terms play an important role in redistributing zonal angular momentum: convergence of the lateral momentum flux gives rise to a strong eastward jet, with an adjacent westward jet equatorward and weaker multiple jets poleward. An equally prominent feature of the flow is a strong and persistent eddy that has the structure of a Kelvin cat’s eye and generally occupies the zonal width of the basin at latitudes 15°–10°S.

A strongly mixed surface diabatic zone overlies the near-adiabatic interior, within which Ertel potential vorticity (but not thickness) is homogenized along the mean isopycnals everywhere in the basin where eddies have developed (and thus is not homogenized equatorward of the most energetic eastward jet). A region of low potential vorticity (PV) is formed adjacent to the strong baroclinic front associated with that jet and subsequently maintained by strong convective events.

The eddy buoyancy flux is dominated by its skew component over large parts of the near-adiabatic interior, with cross-isopycnal components present only in the vicinity of the main jet and in the surface diabatic layer. Close to the main jet, the cross-isopycnal components are dominantly balanced by the triple correlation terms in the buoyancy variance budget, while the advection of buoyancy variance by the mean flow is not a dominant term in the eddy buoyancy variance budget.

Along-isopycnal mixing in the near-adiabatic interior is estimated by applying the effective diffusivity diagnostic of Nakamura. The effective diffusivity is large at the flanks of the mean jet and beneath it and small in the jet core. The apparent horizontal diffusivity for buoyancy obtained from the flux–gradient relationship is the same magnitude as the effective diffusivity, but the structures are rather different. The diapycnal diffusivity is strongest in the surface layer and also in a convectively unstable region that extends to depths of hundreds of meters beneath the equatorward flank of the main jet.

* Current affiliation: Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.

Corresponding author address: Ivana Cerovečki, CASPO, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093. Email: icerovec@ucsd.edu

Abstract

The baroclinically unstable wind- and buoyancy-driven flow in a zonally reentrant pie-shaped sector on a sphere is numerically modeled and then analyzed using the transformed Eulerian-mean (TEM) formalism. Mean fields are obtained by zonal and time averaging performed at fixed height. The very large latitudinal extent of the basin (50.7°S latitude to the equator) allows the latitude variation of the Coriolis parameter to strongly influence the flow. Persistent zonal jets are observed in the statistically steady state. Reynolds stress terms play an important role in redistributing zonal angular momentum: convergence of the lateral momentum flux gives rise to a strong eastward jet, with an adjacent westward jet equatorward and weaker multiple jets poleward. An equally prominent feature of the flow is a strong and persistent eddy that has the structure of a Kelvin cat’s eye and generally occupies the zonal width of the basin at latitudes 15°–10°S.

A strongly mixed surface diabatic zone overlies the near-adiabatic interior, within which Ertel potential vorticity (but not thickness) is homogenized along the mean isopycnals everywhere in the basin where eddies have developed (and thus is not homogenized equatorward of the most energetic eastward jet). A region of low potential vorticity (PV) is formed adjacent to the strong baroclinic front associated with that jet and subsequently maintained by strong convective events.

The eddy buoyancy flux is dominated by its skew component over large parts of the near-adiabatic interior, with cross-isopycnal components present only in the vicinity of the main jet and in the surface diabatic layer. Close to the main jet, the cross-isopycnal components are dominantly balanced by the triple correlation terms in the buoyancy variance budget, while the advection of buoyancy variance by the mean flow is not a dominant term in the eddy buoyancy variance budget.

Along-isopycnal mixing in the near-adiabatic interior is estimated by applying the effective diffusivity diagnostic of Nakamura. The effective diffusivity is large at the flanks of the mean jet and beneath it and small in the jet core. The apparent horizontal diffusivity for buoyancy obtained from the flux–gradient relationship is the same magnitude as the effective diffusivity, but the structures are rather different. The diapycnal diffusivity is strongest in the surface layer and also in a convectively unstable region that extends to depths of hundreds of meters beneath the equatorward flank of the main jet.

* Current affiliation: Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.

Corresponding author address: Ivana Cerovečki, CASPO, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093. Email: icerovec@ucsd.edu

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