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ATOC seminar: Ocean small-scale eddies as a key component of the Earth’s climate

Friday, February 02, 2018, 3:00PM - 4:00PM


Zhan Su

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


SEEC Auditorium

4001 Discovery Drive, Boulder

Ocean small-scale motions (defined here as scales below ~50km) are highly turbulent; they are not resolved and are still poorly parameterized in all climate models. This missing component, as demonstrated in my talk, is crucial for the global atmosphere/ocean heat budget, the large-scale ocean circulation, and the global ice budget. I use a groundbreaking global ocean model with a super high resolution that, for the first time, globally resolves ocean motions down to ~10km scales. Results highlight ubiquitous and strong small-scale ocean eddies over the globe. These eddies cause extremely large vertical heat transport, up to ~1000 W/m^2. It is found to be critical for air-sea interaction (e.g. heat & carbon uptake), as well as critically affecting sea ice melting and the vertical transport of biogeochemical tracers (e.g. carbon, oxygen) and phytoplankton nutrients (e.g., nitrate, silicate).  Moreover, these small-scale eddies are key to power the global large-scale ocean circulation via nonlinear multiple-scale interaction. These large oceanic and climate impacts, which are currently not captured in all climate models, are a critical research frontier. This study also has important implications for the SWOT, an upcoming NASA-leading billion-dollar satellite mission for the observation of small- and medium-scale ocean eddies.


Free and open to the public.