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Relationship between global ocean mixing and mesoscale eddies
  • Guanghong Liao,
  • Zhi Liu
Guanghong Liao
College of Oceanography, Hohai University, Nanjing, 210098, China

Corresponding Author:liaogh@hhu.edu.cn

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Zhi Liu
Hohai University
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Numerous studies have indicated that mesoscale eddies play an important role in diapycnal mixing and drive global water circulation. Although the relationships between eddy surface features and turbulent mixing have been discussed for individual cases of typical eddies, global studies cannot rely on ship-based microstructural measurements. Fine-scale methods have been developed, wherein either the vertical shear of velocity or density strain is used to estimate turbulent mixing. In this study, the turbulent dissipation rate was estimated using strain information from Argo floats trapped in eddies. Spatially averaged estimates revealed the global distribution patterns of the dissipation rates inside the eddies. In addition, the relationships between eddy features (polarity, radius, vertical extent, and aspect ratio) and turbulent dissipation rates were analyzed. Three main conclusions were made from this study. First, turbulent dissipation rates inside anticyclones were generally larger than those inside cyclones. Second, turbulent dissipation rates inside eddies are related to their vertical extent but not to their horizontal scale. For shallow eddies (with a vertical extent less than 250 m for cyclones and 300 m for anticyclones), the deeper the vertical extent, the larger the turbulent dissipation rate. Finally, the relationship between the eddy aspect ratio and turbulent dissipation rate was characterized by skewness. The average turbulent dissipation rate reached a maximum value when the cyclone aspect ratio was approximately 0.007; conversely, no maximum value was reached for anticyclones. This work establishes a correlation between eddy features and turbulent dissipation rates, which will help guide numerical simulations of mesoscale eddies.