A marginal stability paradigm for shear‐induced diapycnal turbulent mixing in the ocean

Mashayek, A.; Baker, L. E.; Cael, B.B. ORCID:; Caulfield, C. P.. 2021 A marginal stability paradigm for shear‐induced diapycnal turbulent mixing in the ocean. Geophysical Research Letters, 49 (2).

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Turbulent mixing induced by breaking internal waves is key to the ocean circulation and global tracer budgets. While the classic marginal shear instability of Richardson number ∼1/4 has been considered as potentially relevant to turbulent wave breaking, its relevance to flows that are not steady parallel shear flows has been suspect. We show that shear instability is indeed relevant in the ocean interior and propose a new marginal stability paradigm that relates the stability criterion based on Richardson number to one based on the ratio of Ozmidov and Thorpe turbulence scales. The new paradigm applies to both ocean interior and boundary layer flows. This allows for accurate quantification of the transition from downwelling to upwelling zones in a recently emerged paradigm of ocean circulation. Our results help climate models more accurately calculate the mixing-driven deep ocean circulation and fluxes of tracers in the ocean interior.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: NOC Programmes > Ocean BioGeosciences
ISSN: 0094-8276
Date made live: 20 Jul 2022 13:03 +0 (UTC)

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