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Free Content On the influence of the parameterization of lateral boundary layers on the thermohaline circulation in coarse-resolution ocean models

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Because of the first order geostrophic balance in the ocean interior, the parameterization of lateral boundary layers has more influence than the parameterization of viscosity on the thermohaline overturning and the deep water properties in coarse-resolution ocean circulation models. Different formulations of momentum dissipation and associated boundary conditions are implemented within a planetary-geostrophic ocean circulation model for a Cartesian coordinate, flat-bottomed, -plane, with restoring boundary conditions for the surface density and zero wind stress. Traditional Laplacian friction with a no-slip boundary condition produces an interior circulation in good agreement with geostrophy and the Sverdrup balance, but generates very large vertical (diapycnal) transports at lateral boundaries, especially upwelling in the western boundary current and downwelling in the northeast corner. The meridional and zonal overturning are thus enhanced, but drive to depth surface waters that are not as cold as the ones in the deep convection regions. Rayleigh friction with various frictional closures for the alongshore velocities within a no-normalflow boundary condition framework efficiently reduces the diapycnal vertical transports along the boundaries, by allowing horizontal recirculation of geostrophic currents impinging into coasts. Hence, these parameterizations induce weaker overturnings, with colder deep water and a sharper thermocline resulting in higher poleward heat transports. We suggest that the upwelling along the boundaries is a consequence of the coarse-resolution dynamics and not only horizontal diffusion (termed the "Veronis effect," horizontal diffusion produces large diapycnal fluxes once the isopycnals are tilted by coastal upwellings). Alternative parameterizations for the lateral boundary layers reduce this effect without the need for rotating the mixing tensor along isopycnals. This model comparison proves the need to clearly assess the extent of the diapycnal upwelling in the western boundary currents and to develop physically-based parameterizations of lateral boundary layers in order to improve coarse-resolution OGCMs.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-05-01

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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