Articles | Volume 17, issue 1
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 17, 37–47, 2010

Special issue: Nonlinear processes in oceanic and atmospheric flows

Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 17, 37–47, 2010

  22 Jan 2010

22 Jan 2010

Vertical mixing and coherent anticyclones in the ocean: the role of stratification

I. Koszalka1, L. Ceballos2, and A. Bracco2 I. Koszalka et al.
  • 1Institute of Geosciences, University of Oslo, 1022 Blinden, 0315 Oslo, Norway
  • 2School of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

Abstract. The role played by wind-forced anticyclones in the vertical transport and mixing at the ocean mesoscale is investigated with a primitive-equation numerical model in an idealized configuration. The focus of this work is to determine how the stratification impacts such transport.

The flows, forced only at the surface by an idealized wind forcing, are predominantly horizontal and, on average, quasigeostrophic. Inside vortex cores and intense filaments, however, the dynamics is strongly ageostrophic.

Mesoscale anticyclones appear as "islands" of increased penetration of wind energy into the ocean interior and they represent the maxima of available potential energy. The amount of available potential energy is directly correlated with the degree of stratification.

The wind energy injected at the surface is transferred at depth through the generation and subsequent straining effect of Vortex Rossby Waves (VRWs), and through near-inertial internal oscillations trapped inside anticyclonic vortices. Both these mechanisms are affected by stratification. Stronger transfer but larger confinement close to the surface is found when the stratification is stronger. For weaker stratification, vertical mixing close to the surface is less intense but below about 150 m attains substantially higher values due to an increased contribution of both VRWs, whose time scale is on the order of few days, and of near-inertial motions, with a time scale of few hours.