— Coral Gables — Understanding dynamics of mesoscale eddies (motions on the scales of tens to a few hundreds of kilometers) remains one of the fundamental challenges in physical oceanography. While the importance of these eddies in ocean dynamics is now widely accepted, they are still not fully captured by the majority of climate models, and scientists are still struggling to understand how these eddies form and evolve over time.
In particular, it has been discovered that mesoscale variability in the ocean leads to the spontaneous generation of slowly evolving patterns. These formations may become as important for eddy generation, as well-established baroclinic instability. The resulting Large-Scale Eddy-Driven Patterns (LEDPs) represent a substantial portion of the variability in our oceans and can play an important role in the transport of heat, salinity, momentum and carbon. So, it is vital to improve our understanding of these eddy effects, which can impact the accuracy of future climate projections.
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, a new collaborative study between teams led by University of Miami (UM) Associate Professor Igor Kamenkovich and Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Associate Professor Timour Radko will investigate critical oceanic processes involved in the LEDP dynamics, using a combination of numerical simulations and analytical multi-scale methods. This will make it possible to offer a more complete and realistic description of LEDPs, directly applicable to observations and comprehensive climate models. A combination of approaches will reveal the complex interplay between mesoscale eddies and LEDPs, not available through numerical simulation alone. The project will also help to describe the eddy transport of such important tracers as heat and carbon caused by the LEDPs.
“Advances in the understanding of eddy-induced transport and low frequency variability in the oceans will help to improve climate prediction capabilities, ultimately leading to societal benefits,” said Kamenkovich. “In addition to its oceanographic importance, this study will have significant implications for fundamental fluid mechanics, geophysics and climate science.”