A Multi-wavenumber Theory for Eddy Diffusivities: Applications to the DIMES Region

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ru Chen1, Sarah T Gille1, Julie McClean1, Glenn Flierl2 and Alexa Griesel3, (1)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States, (3)ZMAW Center for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Hamburg, Germany
Climate models are sensitive to the representation of ocean mixing processes. This has motivated recent efforts to collect observations aimed at improving mixing estimates and parameterizations. The US/UK field program Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES), begun in 2009, is providing such estimates upstream of and within the Drake Passage. This region is characterized by topography, and strong zonal jets. In previous studies, mixing length theories, based on the assumption that eddies are dominated by a single wavenumber and phase speed, were formulated to represent the estimated mixing patterns in jets. However, in spite of the success of the single wavenumber theory in some other scenarios, it does not effectively predict the vertical structures of observed eddy diffusivities in the DIMES area. Considering that eddy motions encompass a wide range of wavenumbers, which all contribute to mixing, in this study we formulated a multi-wavenumber theory to predict eddy mixing rates. We test our theory for a domain encompassing the entire Southern Ocean. We estimated eddy diffusivities and mixing lengths from one million numerical floats in a global eddying model. These float-based mixing estimates were compared with the predictions from both the single-wavenumber and the multi-wavenumber theories. Our preliminary results in the DIMES area indicate that, compared to the single-wavenumber theory, the multi-wavenumber theory better predicts the vertical mixing structures in the vast areas where the mean flow is weak; however in the intense jet region, both theories have similar predictive skill.