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Publication Date
1 August 2015

Diagnosing Isopycnal Diffusivity in an Eddying, Idealized Midlatitude Ocean Basin via Lagrangian, in Situ, Global, High-Performance Particle Tracking (LIGHT)



Isopycnal diffusivity due to stirring by mesoscale eddies in an idealized, wind-forced, eddying, midlatitude ocean basin is computed using Lagrangian, in Situ, Global, High-Performance Particle Tracking (LIGHT). Simulation is performed via LIGHT within the Model for Prediction across Scales Ocean (MPAS-O). Simulations are performed at 4-, 8-, 16-, and 32-km resolution, where the first Rossby radius of deformation (RRD) is approximately 30 km. Scalar and tensor diffusivities are estimated at each resolution based on 30 ensemble members using particle cluster statistics. Each ensemble member is composed of 303,665 particles distributed across five potential density surfaces. Diffusivity dependence upon model resolution, velocity spatial scale, and buoyancy surface is quantified and compared with mixing length theory. The spatial structure of diffusivity ranges over approximately two orders of magnitude with values of O(10^5) m^2 s^{−1} in the region of western boundary current separation to O(10^3) m^2 s^{−1} in the eastern region of the basin. Dominant mixing occurs at scales twice the size of the first RRD. Model resolution at scales finer than the RRD is necessary to obtain sufficient model fidelity at scales between one and four RRD to accurately represent mixing. Mixing length scaling with eddy kinetic energy and the Lagrangian time scale yield mixing efficiencies that typically range between 0.4 and 0.8. A reduced mixing length in the eastern region of the domain relative to the west suggests there are different mixing regimes outside the baroclinic jet region.

Wolfram, Phillip, Todd Ringler, Mathew Maltrud, Douglas W Jacobsen, and Mark R Petersen. 2015. “Diagnosing Isopycnal Diffusivity In An Eddying, Idealized Midlatitude Ocean Basin Via Lagrangian, In Situ, Global, High-Performance Particle Tracking (Light)”. Journal Of Physical Oceanography 45: 2114-2133. doi:10.1175/JPO-D-14-0260.1.
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