Effect of small-scale topography on eddy dissipation in the Northern South China Sea

Zhibin Yang (Lead Author), Zhao Jing, Xiaoming Zhai

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Mesoscale eddies are ubiquitous dynamical features, accounting for over 90% of the total kinetic energy of the ocean. However, the pathway for eddy energy dissipation has not been fully understood. Here we investigate the effect of small-scale topography on eddy dissipation in the northern South China Sea by comparing high-resolution ocean simulations with smooth and synthetically generated rough topography. The presence of rough topography is found to 1) significantly enhance viscous dissipation and instabilities within a few hundred meters above the rough bottom, especially in the slope region, and 2) change the relative importance of energy dissipation by bottom frictional drag and interior viscosity. The role of lee wave generation in eddy energy dissipation is investigated using a Lagrangian filter method. About one-third of the enhanced viscous energy dissipation in the rough topography experiment is associated with lee wave energy dissipation, with the remaining two-thirds explained by nonwave energy dissipation, at least partly as a result of the non-propagating form drag effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2397–2416
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number10
Early online date9 Sep 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • Eddies
  • Instability
  • Internal waves

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