Surface eddy diffusivity for heat in a model of the northwest Atlantic Ocean

Xiaoming Zhai, Richard J. Greatbatch

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Eddies influence the surface heat budget both by modifying the surface heat flux and by the lateral transfer of heat within the surface mixed layer. It is shown that the presence of eddies modifies the surface heat flux in a model of the northwest Atlantic Ocean by more than 100 W m-2 over the Gulf Stream system. The diffusive effect of eddies is then illustrated by comparing two model runs, in the second of which the surface heat flux acts only on large spatial scales and interaction with the mesoscale eddies is suppressed. This second run exhibits finer-scale structure and tighter thermal fronts than in the fully interactive run. Finally, we estimate the surface eddy diffusivity associated with surface thermal damping from the fully interactive run. The estimated diffusivity takes large values (more than 103 m2 s-1) south of the Gulf Stream and smaller values elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • surface eddy diffusivity
  • thermal damping
  • mixed layer

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