Resolving the paradox of oceanic large-scale balance and small-scale mixing

AMS Citation:
Marino, R., A. Pouquet, and D. Rosenberg, 2015: Resolving the paradox of oceanic large-scale balance and small-scale mixing. Physical Review Letters, 114, 5 pp, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.114504.
Date:2015-03-18
Resource Type:article
Title:Resolving the paradox of oceanic large-scale balance and small-scale mixing
Abstract: A puzzle of oceanic dynamics is the contrast between the observed geostrophic balance, involving gravity, pressure gradient, and Coriolis forces, and the necessary turbulent transport: in the former case, energy flows to large scales, leading to spectral condensation, whereas in the latter, it is transferred to small scales, where dissipation prevails. The known bidirectional constant-flux energy cascade maintaining both geostrophic balance and mixing tends towards flux equilibration as turbulence strengthens, contradicting models and recent observations which find a dominant large-scale flux. Analyzing a large ensemble of high-resolution direct numerical simulations of the Boussinesq equations in the presence of rotation and no salinity, we show that the ratio of the dual energy flux to large and to small scales agrees with observations, and we predict that it scales with the inverse of the Froude and Rossby numbers when stratification is (realistically) stronger than rotation. Furthermore, we show that the kinetic and potential energies separately undergo a bidirectional transfer to larger and smaller scales. Altogether, this allows for small-scale mixing which drives the global oceanic circulation and will thus potentially lead to more accurate modeling of climate dynamics.
Peer Review:Refereed
Copyright Information:Copyright 2015 American Physical Society.
OpenSky citable URL: ark:/85065/d72n53f8
Publisher's Version: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.114504
Author(s):
  • Raffaele Marino - NCAR/UCAR
  • Annick Pouquet - NCAR/UCAR
  • D. Rosenberg
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