Area L: Large-Scale and Balanced Processes

Both the large-scale currents and mesoscale eddies in the ocean are essentially quasi-geostrophically balanced in the horizontal and hydrostatically in the vertical. Area L focuses on those processes in the ocean.

Eddies in the ocean

Mesoscale eddies in the ocean, sometimes referred to as the oceanic equivalent of atmospheric storms, derive their energy from the large-scale flow mainly through baroclinic instability processes. These processes are parameterized in climate models with down-gradient parameterizations using eddy diffusivities. In geostrophic turbulence, eddies then tend to transfer their energy upscale in an inverse cascade. But ultimately, this energy has to be dissipated and it is largely unknown how and where.

Our scientists specifically assess one important pathway to dissipation, the spontaneous emission of gravity waves by the quasi-balanced flows, and analyze drifter and float data to estimate eddy production and Lagrangian mixing from observations, models and theory.

Specific research questions in Area L are:

  • How is the balanced flow dissipated in the ocean, and how important is the route to dissipation via spontaneous wave generation?
  • What are the limits and validities of the eddy diffusion model and how can we quantify and parameterize the effects of mesoscale eddies in an energy-consistent way?
  • Chrysagi, E., Basdurak, N.B., Umlauf, L., Gräwe, U. & Burchard, H. (2022). Thermocline Salinity Minima Due To Wind-Driven Differential Advection. JGR Oceans 127(11), doi:

  • Streffing, J., Scholz, P., Koldunov, N., Danilov, S., Juricke, S., Jung, T. et al. (2022): AWI-CM3 coupled climate model: description and evaluation experiments for a prototype post-CMIP6 model. Geosci. Model Dev. 15, 6399–6427, doi:

  • Franzke, C. L., Gugole, F., & Juricke, S. (2022): Systematic multi-scale decomposition of ocean variability using machine learning. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science 32(7), 073122, doi:

  • Chouksey, M., Griesel, A., Eden, C. & Steinfeldt, R. (2022). Transit Time Distributions and Ventilation Pathways Using CFCs and Lagrangian Backtracking in the South Atlantic of an Eddying Ocean Model. Journal of Physical Oceanography 52(7), 1531–1548, doi:

  • Chouksey, A., Griesel, A., Chouksey, M., & Eden, C. (2022): Changes in global ocean circulation due to isopycnal diffusion. J. Phys. Oceanogr. Early Online Release, doi:

  • Peng, J.-P., Dräger-Dietel, J., North, R. P., & Umlauf, L. (2021). Diurnal Variability of Frontal Dynamics, Instability, and Turbulence in a Submesoscale Upwelling Filament, J. Phys.Oceanogr.51(9), 2825-2843, doi:

  • Li, Q., Bruggemann, J., Burchard, H., Klingbeil, K., Umlauf, L., & Bolding, K. (2021). Integrating CVMix into GOTM (v6.0): a consistent framework for testing, comparing, and applying ocean mixing schemes. Geosci. Model Dev., doi:

  • Carpenter, J. R. , Rodrigues, A., Schultze, L. K. P., Merckelbach, L. M., Suzuki, N., Baschek, B. & Umlauf, L. (2020). Shear Instability and Turbulence Within a Submesoscale Front Following a Storm. Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:

  • Li, Z. and von Storch, J.-S. (2020). M2 internal-tide generation in STORMTIDE2. J. Geophys. Res.: Oceans, doi:

  • Masur, G. T., & Oliver, M. (2020). Optimal balance for rotating shallow water in primitive variables, Geophys. & Astrophys. Fluid Dyn., .