John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

Formulation and implementation of a ‘residual-mean’ ocean circulation model

Formulation and implementation of a ‘residual-mean’ ocean circulation model.

(Ferreira, D and Marshall, J), OCEAN MODELLING, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. pages, 2006.


A parameterization of mesoscale eddies in coarse-resolution ocean general circulation models (GCM) is formulated and implemented using a residual-mean formalism. In that framework, mean buoyancy is advected by the residual velocity (the sum of the Eulerian and eddy-induced velocities) and modified by a residual flux which accounts for the diabatic effects of mesoscale eddies. The residual velocity is obtained by stepping forward a residual-mean momentum equation in which eddy stresses appear as forcing terms. Study of the spatial distribution of eddy stresses, derived by using them as control parameters to “fit” the residual-mean model to observations, supports the idea that eddy stresses can be likened to a vertical down-gradient flux of momentum with a coefficient which is constant in the vertical. The residual eddy flux is set to zero in the ocean interior, where mesoscale eddies are assumed to be quasi-adiabatic, but is parameterized by a horizontal down-gradient diffusivity near the surface where eddies develop a diabatic component as they stir properties horizontally across steep isopycnals. The residual-mean model is implemented and tested in the MIT general circulation model. It is shown that the resulting model (1) has a climatology that is superior to that obtained using the Gent and McWilliams parameterization scheme with a spatially uniform diffusivity and (2) allows one to significantly reduce the (spurious) horizontal viscosity used in coarse-resolution GCMs.

doi = 10.1016/j.ocemod.2005.12.001