Tidally driven mixing in a numerical model of the ocean general circulation Academic Article uri icon


  • Astronomical data reveals that approximately 3.5 terawatts (TW) of tidal energy is dissipated in the ocean. Tidal models and satellite altimetry suggest that 1 TW of this energy is converted from the barotropic to internal tides in the deep ocean, predominantly around regions of rough topography such as mid-ocean ridges. A global tidal model is used to compute turbulent energy levels associated with the dissipation of internal tides, and the diapycnal mixing supported by this energy flux is computed using a simple parameterization. The mixing parameterization has been incorporated into a coarse resolution numerical model of the global ocean. This parameterization offers an energetically consistent and practical means of improving the representation of ocean mixing processes in climate models. Novel features of this implementation are that the model explicitly accounts for the tidal energy source for mixing, and that the mixing evolves both spatially and temporally with the model state. At equilibrium, the globally averaged diffusivity profile ranges from 0.3 cm(2) s(-1) at thermocline depths to 7.7 cm(2) s(-1) in the abyss-with a depth average of 0.9 cm(2) s(-1), in close agreement with inferences from global balances. Water properties are strongly influenced by the combination of weak mixing in the main thermocline and enhanced mixing in the deep ocean. Climatological comparisons show that the parameterized mixing scheme results in a substantial reduction of temperature/salinity bias relative to model solutions with either a uniform vertical diffusivity of 0.9 cm(2) s(-1) or a horizontally uniform bottom-intensified arctangent mixing profile. This suggests that spatially varying bottom intensified mixing is an essential component of the, balances required for the maintenance of the ocean’s abyssal stratification. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • January 2004