Diapycnal mixing plays a primary role in the thermodynamic balance of the ocean, and consequently, in oceanic heat and carbon uptake and storage. Though observed mixing rates are on average consistent with values required by inverse models, recent attention has focused on the dramatic spatial variability, spanning several orders of magnitude, of mixing rates in both the upper and deep ocean. Climate models have been shown to be very sensitive not only to the overall level but to the detailed distribution of mixing; sub-grid-scale parameterizations based on accurate physical processes will allow model forecasts to evolve with a changing climate. Spatio-temporal patterns of mixing are largely driven by the geography of generation, propagation and destruction of internal waves, which are thought to supply much of the power for turbulent mixing. Over the last five years and under the auspices of US CLIVAR, a NSF and NOAA supported Climate Process Team has been engaged in developing, implementing and testing dynamics-base parameterizations for internal-wave driven turbulent mixing in global ocean models. The work has primarily focused on turbulence 1) near sites of internal tide generation, 2) in the upper ocean related to wind-generated near inertial motions, 3) due to internal lee waves generated by low-frequency mesoscale flows over topography, and 4) at ocean margins. Here we review recent progress, describe the tools developed, and discuss future directions.
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (ISSN 0003-0007) (e-ISSN 1520-0477); 98; 11; 2429-2454