A theory of eddy saturation

Our paper presenting a simple model of eddy saturation – the surprising insensitivity of the strength of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to surface wind forcing – has been published in Geophysical Research Letters and highlighted as a Research Spotlight in EOS.

The model invokes three ingredients: a momentum budget, an eddy energy budget, and a relation between the “eddy form stress” and eddy energy that we have identified in previous work. The model also predicts that circumpolar transport increases with increased bottom friction, a counterintuitive result that is confirmed in eddy-permitting calculations. These results suggest an unexpected and important impact of eddy energy dissipation, through bottom drag or lee wave generation, on ocean stratification, ocean heat content, and potentially atmospheric CO2.

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