Journal cover Journal topic
Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Ocean Sci., 6, 679-693, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
16 Jul 2010
Mixed layer sub-mesoscale parameterization – Part 1: Derivation and assessment
V. M. Canuto2,1 and M. S. Dubovikov3,1 1NASA, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, 10025, USA
2Dept. Appl. Math. and Phys., Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027, USA
3Center for Clim. Systems Res., Columbia University, New York, NY, 10025, USA
Abstract. Several studies have shown that sub-mesoscales (SM ~1 km horizontal scale) play an important role in mixed layer dynamics. In particular, high resolution simulations have shown that in the case of strong down-front wind, the re-stratification induced by the SM is of the same order of the de-stratification induced by small scale turbulence, as well as of that induced by the Ekman velocity. These studies have further concluded that it has become necessary to include SM in ocean global circulation models (OGCMs), especially those used in climate studies.

The goal of our work is to derive and assess an analytic parameterization of the vertical tracer flux under baroclinic instabilities and wind of arbitrary directions and strength. To achieve this goal, we have divided the problem into two parts: first, in this work we derive and assess a parameterization of the SM vertical flux of an arbitrary tracer for ocean codes that resolve mesoscales, M, but not sub-mesoscales, SM. In Part 2, presented elsewhere, we have used the results of this work to derive a parameterization of SM fluxes for ocean codes that do not resolve either M or SM.

To carry out the first part of our work, we solve the SM dynamic equations including the non-linear terms for which we employ a closure developed and assessed in previous work. We present a detailed analysis for down-front and up-front winds with the following results:

(a) down-front wind (blowing in the direction of the surface geostrophic velocity) is the most favorable condition for generating vigorous SM eddies; the de-stratifying effect of the mean flow and re-stratifying effect of SM almost cancel each other out,

(b) in the up-front wind case (blowing in the direction opposite to the surface geostrophic velocity), strong winds prevents the SM generation while weak winds hinder the process but the eddies amplify the re-stratifying effect of the mean velocity,

(c) wind orthogonal to the geostrophic velocity. In this case, which was not considered in numerical simulations, we show that when the wind direction coincides with that of the horizontal buoyancy gradient, SM eddies are generated and their re-stratifying effect partly cancels the de-stratifying effect of the mean velocity. The case when wind direction is opposite to that of the horizontal buoyancy gradient, is analogous to the case of up-front winds.

In conclusion, the new multifaceted implications on the mixed layer stratification caused by the interplay of both strength and directions of the wind in relation to the buoyancy gradient disclosed by high resolution simulations have been reproduced by the present model.

The present results can be used in OGCMs that resolve M but not SM.

Citation: Canuto, V. M. and Dubovikov, M. S.: Mixed layer sub-mesoscale parameterization – Part 1: Derivation and assessment, Ocean Sci., 6, 679-693,, 2010.
Publications Copernicus