Irreversible Mixing Induced by Geostrophic Turbulence over the Global Ocean

Tongya Liu aState Key Laboratory of Satellite Ocean Environment Dynamics, Second Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Natural Resources, Hangzhou, China
bSouthern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, China

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Yu-Kun Qian cState Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China

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Xiaohui Liu aState Key Laboratory of Satellite Ocean Environment Dynamics, Second Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Natural Resources, Hangzhou, China
bSouthern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, China

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Shiqiu Peng cState Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China

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Dake Chen aState Key Laboratory of Satellite Ocean Environment Dynamics, Second Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Natural Resources, Hangzhou, China
bSouthern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, China

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Abstract

Two recently proposed mixing diagnostics are employed to estimate the global surface irreversible mixing based on particle and tracer simulation driven by satellite-derived geostrophic velocities. These two novel diagnostics, similar to the traditional dispersion diffusivity and Nakamura’s effective diffusivity but defined in a localized and instantaneous sense, have the following advantages: 1) they reconcile the theoretical discrepancies between Eulerian-, particle-, and contour-based diffusivities and 2) they do not rely on the stationary and homogeneous assumptions of the turbulent ocean and are free from traditional average operators (e.g., Eulerian time–space or along-contour mean). Our results show that evident discrepancies among these three types of diffusivities do emerge when employing traditional estimates. However, these discrepancies could be significantly mitigated with the adoption of new diagnostic methods, implying that the three types of diffusivities can be effectively reconciled within a global framework. Moreover, finescale mixing structures and transient elevated mixing events due to geostrophic stirring can be clearly identified by the two new diagnostics, in contrast to previous estimates that are spatially and/or temporally smoothed. In particular, it is interesting to note that large values of the new diagnostics usually occur along narrow filaments/fronts associated with mesoscale eddies, and elevated mixing is observed to be located at the periphery of eddies. Our study presents a novel revisit of the global surface mixing induced by geostrophic eddies with an emphasis on irreversibility and provides new insights into previous questions regarding different mixing diagnostics in the community.

Significance Statement

Previous estimates of eddy mixing over the global ocean, using particle-based, tracer-based, and Eulerian-based diffusivities, have shown evident discrepancies. By using recently proposed novel mixing diagnostics, this study demonstrates that the three types of diffusivity estimates agree well with each other, indicating a practical unification of the three types of diffusivities. Also, since the new mixing diagnostics do not involve any traditional average operator, the local and instantaneous mixing maps over the global ocean are presented here, in contrast to previous spatial- or temporal-averaged ones. These new insights can address several unresolved issues in the mixing community.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yu-Kun Qian, qianyukun@scsio.ac.cn

Abstract

Two recently proposed mixing diagnostics are employed to estimate the global surface irreversible mixing based on particle and tracer simulation driven by satellite-derived geostrophic velocities. These two novel diagnostics, similar to the traditional dispersion diffusivity and Nakamura’s effective diffusivity but defined in a localized and instantaneous sense, have the following advantages: 1) they reconcile the theoretical discrepancies between Eulerian-, particle-, and contour-based diffusivities and 2) they do not rely on the stationary and homogeneous assumptions of the turbulent ocean and are free from traditional average operators (e.g., Eulerian time–space or along-contour mean). Our results show that evident discrepancies among these three types of diffusivities do emerge when employing traditional estimates. However, these discrepancies could be significantly mitigated with the adoption of new diagnostic methods, implying that the three types of diffusivities can be effectively reconciled within a global framework. Moreover, finescale mixing structures and transient elevated mixing events due to geostrophic stirring can be clearly identified by the two new diagnostics, in contrast to previous estimates that are spatially and/or temporally smoothed. In particular, it is interesting to note that large values of the new diagnostics usually occur along narrow filaments/fronts associated with mesoscale eddies, and elevated mixing is observed to be located at the periphery of eddies. Our study presents a novel revisit of the global surface mixing induced by geostrophic eddies with an emphasis on irreversibility and provides new insights into previous questions regarding different mixing diagnostics in the community.

Significance Statement

Previous estimates of eddy mixing over the global ocean, using particle-based, tracer-based, and Eulerian-based diffusivities, have shown evident discrepancies. By using recently proposed novel mixing diagnostics, this study demonstrates that the three types of diffusivity estimates agree well with each other, indicating a practical unification of the three types of diffusivities. Also, since the new mixing diagnostics do not involve any traditional average operator, the local and instantaneous mixing maps over the global ocean are presented here, in contrast to previous spatial- or temporal-averaged ones. These new insights can address several unresolved issues in the mixing community.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yu-Kun Qian, qianyukun@scsio.ac.cn
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