Anisotropic Mesoscale Eddy Transport in Ocean General Circulation Models

Monday, 15 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Scott James Reckinger1, Baylor Fox-Kemper1, Scott Bachman2, Frank Bryan3, John Dennis3 and Gokhan Danabasoglu3, (1)Brown University, Providence, RI, United States, (2)University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, (3)National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States
Modern climate models are limited to coarse-resolution representations of large-scale ocean circulation that rely on parameterizations for mesoscale eddies. The effects of eddies are typically introduced by relating subgrid eddy fluxes to the resolved gradients of buoyancy or other tracers, where the proportionality is, in general, governed by an eddy transport tensor. The symmetric part of the tensor, which represents the diffusive effects of mesoscale eddies, is universally treated isotropically in general circulation models. Thus, only a single parameter, namely the eddy diffusivity, is used at each spatial and temporal location to impart the influence of mesoscale eddies on the resolved flow. However, the diffusive processes that the parameterization approximates, such as shear dispersion, potential vorticity barriers, oceanic turbulence, and instabilities, typically have strongly anisotropic characteristics. Generalizing the eddy diffusivity tensor for anisotropy extends the number of parameters to three: a major diffusivity, a minor diffusivity, and the principal axis of alignment. The Community Earth System Model (CESM) with the anisotropic eddy parameterization is used to test various choices for the newly introduced parameters, which are motivated by observations and the eddy transport tensor diagnosed from high resolution simulations. Simply setting the ratio of major to minor diffusivities to a value of five globally, while aligning the major axis along the flow direction, improves biogeochemical tracer ventilation and reduces global temperature and salinity biases. These effects can be improved even further by parameterizing the anisotropic transport mechanisms in the ocean.