Representation of eddies in climate models by a potential vorticity flux

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1999-02
Authors
Wardle, Richard M.
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DOI
10.1575/1912/4721
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Eddies
Vortex-motion
Abstract
This thesis addresses the parameterization of the heat and momentum transporting properties of eddy motions for use in three-dimensional, primitive equation, z-coordinate atmosphere and ocean models. Determining the transport characteristics of these eddies is fundamental to understanding their effect on the large-scale ocean circulation and global climate. The approach is to transform the primitive equations to yield the altered 'transformed Eulerian mean' (TEM) equations. The assumption is made that the eddy motions obey quasigeostrophic dynamics while the mean flow obeys the primitive equations. With this assumption, the TEM framework leads to the eddies appearing as one term, which acts as a body force in the momentum equations. This force manifests itself as a flux of potential vorticity (PV) - a quantity that incorporates both eddy momentum and heat transporting properties. Moreover, the dynamic velocities are those of the residual mean circulation, a much more relevant velocity for understanding heat and tracer transport. Closure for the eddy PV flux is achieved through a flux-gradient relationship, which directs the flux down the large scale PV gradient. For zonal flows, care is taken to ensure that the resulting force does not generate any net momentum, acting only to redistribute it. Neglect of relative vorticity fluxes in the PV flux yields the parameterization scheme of Gent and McWilliams. The approach is investigated by comparing a zonally-averaged parameterized model with a three dimensional eddy-resolving calculation of flow in a stress-driven channel. The stress at the upper surface is communicated down the water column to the bottom by eddy form drag. Moreover, lateral eddy momentum fluxes act to strengthen and sharpen the mean flow, transporting eastward momentum up its large scale gradient. Both the vertical momentum transfer and lateral, upgradient momentum transfer by eddies, are captured in the parameterized model. The advantages of this approach are demonstrated in two further zonal cases: 1) the spin-down of a baroclinic zone, and 2) the atmospheric jet stream. The time mean TEM approach and the eddy PV flux closure are explored in the context of an eddy-resolving closed basin flow which breaks the zonal symmetry. Decomposition of eddy PV fluxes into components associated with advective and dissipative effects suggest that the component associated with eddy flux divergence, and therefore forcing of the mean flow, is mainly directed down the large scale gradient and can be parameterized as before. Thus, the approach can be used to capture eddy transport properties for both zonal mean and time mean flows. The PV flux embodies both the eddy heat and momentum fluxes and so presents a more unified picture of their transferring properties. It therefore provides a powerful conceptual and practical framework for representing eddies in numerical models of the atmsophere and ocean.
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution February 1999
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Wardle, R. M. (1999). Representation of eddies in climate models by a potential vorticity flux [Doctoral thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution]. Woods Hole Open Access Server. https://doi.org/10.1575/1912/4721
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