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Published July 2018 | Published
Journal Article Open

Note on the Rate of Restratification in the Baroclinic Spindown of Fronts


This paper revisits how the restratifying buoyancy flux [overbar](w'b') generated by baroclinic mixed layer instabilities depends on environmental conditions. The frontal spindown is shown to produce buoyancy fluxes that increase significantly beyond the previously proposed and widely used scaling [overbar](w'b') ~ fΛ^2H^2 (f is the Coriolis parameter, Λ is the geostrophic shear, and H is the mixed layer depth), irrespective of whether the initial front is broad or narrow. This increase occurs after the initial phase of the nonlinear evolution, when the baroclinic eddies grow in size and develop velocities significantly in excess of the scaling assumption V ~ ΛH. Implications for parameterizing the restratification caused by baroclinic mixed layer instabilities in coarse-resolution models are discussed.

Additional Information

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. (Manuscript received 1 September 2017, in final form 21 March 2018) Jean-Michel Campin is thanked for assistance in implementing the MITgcm modifications necessary to prescribe a background flow. Discussions with Baylor Fox-Kemper are gratefully acknowledged. Funding came from NSF Grant OCE-1233832.

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