An improved mixed layer model for geophysical applications


  • Lakshmi H. Kantha,

  • Carol Anne Clayson


An improved mixed layer model, based on second-moment closure of turbulence and suitable for application to oceanic and atmospheric mixed layers, is described. The model is tested against observational data from different locations in the global oceans, including high latitudes and tropics. The model belongs to the Mellor-Yamada hierarchy but incorporates recent findings from research on large eddy simulations and second-moment closure. The modified expansion of Galperin, Kantha, Hassid and Rosati (1988) that leads to a much simpler and more robust quasi-equilibrium turbulence model is employed instead of the original Mellor and Yamada (1974) model. Findings from ongoing research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on large eddy simulations of the atmospheric boundary layer are utilized to improve parameterizations of pressure covariance terms in the second-moment closure. Shortwave solar radiation penetration is given careful treatment in the model so that the model is applicable to investigations of biological and photochemical processes in the upper ocean. But by far the major improvement is in the inclusion of the shear instability-induced mixing in the strongly stratified region below the oceanic mixed layer that leads to a more realistic and reliable mixed layer model that is suitable for application to a variety of geophysical mixed layers and circulation problems. The model appears to predict the mixing in the upper ocean well on a variety of time scales, from event scale storm-induced deepening and diurnal scale variability to seasonal time scales. With proper attention to the heat and salt balances in the upper ocean, it should be possible to use it for simulations of interannual variability as well. While the model validation has been primarily against oceanic mixed layer data sets, it is believed that the improvements can be readily incorporated into a model of the atmospheric boundary layer as well.