Observational Inferences of Lateral Eddy Diffusivity in the Halocline of the Beaufort Gyre Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Using Ekman pumping rates mediated by sea ice in the Arctic Ocean's Beaufort Gyre (BG), the magnitude of lateral eddy diffusivities required to balance downward pumping is inferred. In this limit—that of vanishing residual-mean circulation—eddy-induced upwelling exactly balances downward pumping. The implied eddy diffusivity varies spatially and decays with depth, with values of 50–400 m2/s. Eddy diffusivity estimated using mixing length theory applied to BG mooring data exhibits a similar decay with depth and range of values from 100 m2/s to more than 600 m2/s. We conclude that eddy diffusivities in the BG are likely large enough to balance downward Ekman pumping, arresting the deepening of the gyre and suggesting that eddies play a zero-order role in buoyancy and freshwater budgets of the BG.

publication date

  • December 28, 2017