Parameterization of eddy fluxes based on a mesoscale energy budget

Malte F. Jansen, Alistair J. Adcroft, Robert Hallberg, Isaac M. Held

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65 Scopus citations


It has recently been proposed to formulate eddy diffusivities in ocean models based on a mesoscale eddy kinetic energy (EKE) budget. Given an appropriate length scale, the mesoscale EKE can be used to estimate an eddy diffusivity based on mixing length theory. This paper discusses some of the open questions associated with the formulation of an EKE budget and mixing length, and proposes an improved energy budget-based parameterization for the mesoscale eddy diffusivity. A series of numerical simulations is performed, using an idealized flat-bottomed β-plane channel configuration with quadratic bottom drag. The results stress the importance of the mixing length formulation, as well as the formulation for the bottom signature of the mesoscale EKE, which is important in determining the rate of EKE dissipation. In the limit of vanishing planetary vorticity gradient, the mixing length is ultimately controlled by bottom drag, though the frictional arrest scale predicted by barotropic turbulence theory needs to be modified to account for the effects of baroclinicity. Any significant planetary vorticity gradient, β, is shown to suppress mixing, and limit the effective mixing length to the Rhines scale. While the EKE remains moderated by bottom friction, the bottom signature of EKE is shown to decrease as the appropriately non-dimensionalized friction increases, which considerably weakens the impact of changes in the bottom friction compared to barotropic turbulence. For moderate changes in the bottom-friction, eddy fluxes are thus reasonably well approximated by the scaling relation proposed by Held and Larichev (1996), which ignores the effect of bottom friction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-41
Number of pages14
JournalOcean Modelling
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Oceanography
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Bottom flow
  • Eddy diffusivity
  • Eddy kinetic energy
  • Eddy parameterization
  • Mesoscale
  • Rhines scale


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