John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Can eddies set ocean stratification?

Can eddies set ocean stratification?.

(Marshall, J and Jones, H and Karsten, R and Wardle, R), JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHY, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. pages, 2002.


A simple theory is presented for the buoyancy anomaly and depth of penetration of a warm lens created by a surface buoyancy flux and Ekman pumping in an initially homogeneous, rotating fluid. It is assumed that the overturning of isopycnals induced by pumping and differential heating balances the counteroverturning tendency of baroclinic instability. Baroclinic eddies not only develop on the stratified lens, but also play a fundamental role in setting its stratification. The theory is successfully tested against numerical and laboratory experiments in which the mechanically induced deepening of a buoyant lens is arrested by its baroclinic instability. Finally the possibility is discussed that the eddy transfer process studied here might play a role in setting the stratification and depth of the main thermocline in the ocean.

doi = 10.1175/1520-0485(2002)0322.0.CO;2