Mesoscale Eddy Parameterization in an Idealized Primitive Equations Model

Thursday, 18 December 2014
James Anstey, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom and Laure Zanna, University of Oxford, Dept of Physics, Oxford, United Kingdom
Large-scale ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio Extension are strongly influenced by mesoscale eddies, which have spatial scales of order 10-100 km. The effects of these eddies are poorly represented in many state-of-the-art ocean general circulation models (GCMs) due to the inadequate spatial resolution of these models. In this study we examine the response of the large-scale ocean circulation to the rectified effects of eddy forcing - i.e., the role played by surface-intensified mesoscale eddies in sustaining and modulating an eastward jet that separates from an intense western boundary current (WBC). For this purpose a primitive equations ocean model (the MITgcm) in an idealized wind-forced double-gyre configuration is integrated at eddy-resolving resolution to reach a forced-dissipative equilibrium state that captures the essential dynamics of WBC-extension jets. The rectified eddy forcing is diagnosed as a stochastic function of the large-scale state, this being characterized by the manner in which potential vorticity (PV) contours become deformed. Specifically, a stochastic function based on the Laplacian of the material rate of change of PV is examined in order to compare the primitive equations results with those of a quasi-geostrophic model in which this function has shown some utility as a parameterization of eddy effects (Porta Mana and Zanna, 2014). The key question is whether an eddy parameterization based on quasi-geostrophic scaling is able to carry over to a system in which this scaling is not imposed (i.e. the primitive equations), in which unbalanced motions occur.