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Sensitivity of the ocean state to lee wave–driven mixing

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 23:19 authored by Melet, A, Hallberg, R, Legg, S, Maxim NikurashinMaxim Nikurashin
Diapycnal mixing plays a key role in maintaining the ocean stratification and the meridional overturning circulation (MOC). In the ocean interior, it is mainly sustained by breaking internal waves. Two important classes of internal waves are internal tides and lee waves, generated by barotropic tides and geostrophic flows interacting with rough topography, respectively. Currently, regarding internal wave–driven mixing, most climate models only explicitly parameterize the local dissipation of internal tides. In this study, the authors explore the combined effects of internal tide– and lee wave–driven mixing on the ocean state. A series of sensitivity experiments using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2G ocean–ice–atmosphere coupled model are performed, including a parameterization of lee wave–driven mixing using a recent estimate for the global map of energy conversion into lee waves, in addition to the tidal mixing parameterization. It is shown that, although the global energy input in the deep ocean into lee waves (0.2 TW; where 1 TW = 1012 W) is small compared to that into internal tides (1.4 TW), lee wave–driven mixing makes a significant impact on the ocean state, notably on the ocean thermal structure and stratification, as well as on the MOC. The vertically integrated circulation is also impacted in the Southern Ocean, which accounts for half of the lee wave energy flux. Finally, it is shown that the different spatial distribution of the internal tide and lee wave energy input impacts the sensitivity described in this study. These results suggest that lee wave–driven mixing should be parameterized in climate models, preferably using more physically based parameterizations that allow the internal lee wave–driven mixing to evolve in a changing ocean.


Publication title

Journal of Physical Oceanography








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Meteorological Soc

Place of publication

45 Beacon St, Boston, USA, Ma, 02108-3693

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 American Meteorological Society

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Climate change models

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