Geophysical Research Letters

Mechanical power input from buoyancy and wind to the circulation in an ocean model

Authors

  • J. A. Saenz,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
      Corresponding author: J. A. Saenz, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Mills Road, Bldg. 61, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. (juan.saenz@anu.edu.au)
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  • A. M. Hogg,

    1. Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
    2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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  • G. O. Hughes,

    1. Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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  • R. W. Griffiths

    1. Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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Corresponding author: J. A. Saenz, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Mills Road, Bldg. 61, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. (juan.saenz@anu.edu.au)

Abstract

[1] We make a systematic quantitative comparison of the effects that surface buoyancy forcing and wind stress have on the energy balance of an idealized, rotating, pole-to-pole ocean model with a zonally re-entrant channel in the south, forced by realistic heat (buoyancy) fluxes and wind stresses representative of global climatology. Surface buoyancy fluxes and wind stress forcing are varied independently; both have significant effects on the reservoirs of various forms of energy and the rates of transfer between them. Importantly, we show for the first time that in the ocean, each power input has a positive feedback on the other. Changes in the rate of generation of available potential energy by buoyancy fluxes at the surface lead to similar changes in the rate of conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy by buoyancy forces (sinking) in the interior, and to changes in the rate of generation of kinetic energy by wind stress. Conversely, changes in the rate of generation of kinetic energy by wind stress lead to changes in the rate of generation of available potential energy by buoyancy forcing. We discuss how this feedback is mediated by the circumpolar current, and processes involving buoyancy, mixing and geostrophic balances. Our results support the notion that surface buoyancy forcing, along with wind and tidal forcing, plays an active role in the energy balance of the oceans. The overturning circulation in the oceans is not the result of a single driving force. Rather, it is a manifestation of a complex and subtle balance.

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