Imprint of chaos on the ocean energy cycle from an eddying North Atlantic ensemble

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Takaya Uchida , Quentin Jamet, William K Dewar, Bruno Deremble, Andrew C. Poje, Luolin Sun


We examine the ocean energy cycle where the eddies are defined about the ensemble mean of a partially air-sea coupled, eddy-rich ensemble simulation of the North Atlantic. The decomposition about the ensemble mean leads to a parameter-free definition of eddies, which is interpreted as the expression of oceanic chaos. Using the ensemble framework, we define the reservoirs of mean and eddy kinetic energy (MKE and EKE respectively) and mean total dynamic enthalpy (MTDE). We opt for the usage of dynamic enthalpy (DE) as a proxy for potential energy due to its dynamically consistent relation to hydrostatic pressure in Boussinesq fluids and non-reliance on any reference stratification. The curious result that emerges is that the potential energy reservoir cannot be decomposed into its mean and eddy components, and the eddy flux of DE can be absorbed into the EKE budget as pressure work.
We find from the energy cycle that while baroclinic instability, associated with a positive vertical eddy buoyancy flux, tends to peak around February, EKE takes its maximum around September in the wind-driven gyre. Interestingly, the energy input from MKE to EKE, a process sometimes associated with barotropic processes, becomes larger than the vertical eddy buoyancy flux towards the summer and autumn. Our results question the common notion that the inverse energy cascade of winter-time EKE energized by baroclinic instability within the mixed layer is solely responsible for the summer-to-autumn peak in EKE, and suggest that the non-local eddy transport of DE and local transfer of energy from MKE to EKE could also contribute to the seasonal EKE maxima.



Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Energy cycle, chaos, North Atlantic Ocean, mesoscale eddies


Published: 2023-09-18 04:02


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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