Oceanic Rings and Jets as Statistical Equilibrium States

Antoine Venaille CNRS, Laboratoire de Physique ENS-Lyon, Lyon, France, and GFDL, AOS, Princeton, New Jersey

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Freddy Bouchet CNRS, Laboratoire de Physique ENS-Lyon, Lyon, France

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Abstract

Equilibrium statistical mechanics of two-dimensional flows provides an explanation and a prediction for the self-organization of large-scale coherent structures. This theory is applied in this paper to the description of oceanic rings and jets, in the framework of a 1.5-layer quasigeostrophic model. The theory predicts the spontaneous formation of regions where the potential vorticity is homogenized, with strong and localized jets at their interface. Mesoscale rings are shown to be close to a statistical equilibrium: the theory accounts for their shape, drift, and ubiquity in the ocean, independently of the underlying generation mechanism. At basin scale, inertial states presenting midbasin eastward jets (and then different from the classical Fofonoff solution) are described as marginally unstable states. In that case, considering a purely inertial limit is a first step toward more comprehensive out-of-equilibrium studies that would take into account other essential aspects, such as wind forcing.

Corresponding author address: Antoine Venaille, Phys ENS-Lyon, 46 Allée d’Italie, 69007 Lyon, France. E-mail: antoine.venaille@ens-lyon.org

Abstract

Equilibrium statistical mechanics of two-dimensional flows provides an explanation and a prediction for the self-organization of large-scale coherent structures. This theory is applied in this paper to the description of oceanic rings and jets, in the framework of a 1.5-layer quasigeostrophic model. The theory predicts the spontaneous formation of regions where the potential vorticity is homogenized, with strong and localized jets at their interface. Mesoscale rings are shown to be close to a statistical equilibrium: the theory accounts for their shape, drift, and ubiquity in the ocean, independently of the underlying generation mechanism. At basin scale, inertial states presenting midbasin eastward jets (and then different from the classical Fofonoff solution) are described as marginally unstable states. In that case, considering a purely inertial limit is a first step toward more comprehensive out-of-equilibrium studies that would take into account other essential aspects, such as wind forcing.

Corresponding author address: Antoine Venaille, Phys ENS-Lyon, 46 Allée d’Italie, 69007 Lyon, France. E-mail: antoine.venaille@ens-lyon.org
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