Collaborative Research: Ocean Transport and Eddy Energy

Lead PI: Ryan Abernathey

Unit Affiliation: Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

September 2019 - August 2022
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Ocean mesoscale eddies are turbulent motions with lateral scales of tens to hundreds of kilometers. These eddies can significantly impact the transport of heat, carbon, and nutrients throughout the oceans, and play an essential role in shaping the ocean's strongest mean currents and their variability. Energy exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere, and across reservoirs and scales in the ocean controls the ocean circulation and transport. Mesoscale eddies play a significant role in this energy exchange. Yet, these eddies are at best partially resolved in ocean climate models, and most of their momentum and tracer transport must be parameterized. Imperfections in these parameterizations lead to biases in modern climate models, including incorrect rates of exchange of heat and carbon with the atmosphere, errors in the position and strength of the ocean's strongest current systems, and incorrect stratification at high latitudes. This Climate Process Team (CPT) brings together observationalists, modelers, and theoreticians to unify and extend recent research on ocean eddy energetics and parameterization, therefore improving both our knowledge of these processes and their representation in ocean models. Newly generated datasets for ocean energetics and transport, together with the increased fidelity of climate models, will advance our understanding of mesoscale eddies in the climate system in particular through their role in the energy budget. This research will lead to increased ocean model fidelity, and therefore has the potential to reduce some of the most stubborn biases in climate models, primarily related to the strength and position of strong currents, and the ocean's stratification. The team, which includes three leading global coupled modeling centers, will implement new parameterizations within climate models, therefore enhancing links between modeling centers and universities. The project will also generate new datasets and parameterizations, promoted on many platforms (e.g., Pangeo, GitHub), which can be used by the whole climate community.