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The effect of the asymmetric Ekman term on the phenomenology of the two-layer quasigeostrophic model

Abstract: In the two-layer quasi-geostrophic model, the friction between the flow at the lower layer and the surface boundary layer, placed beneath the lower layer, is modeled by the Ekman term, which is a linear dissipation term with respect to the horizontal velocity at the lower layer. The Ekman term appears in the governing equations asymmetrically; it is placed at the lower layer, but does not appear at the upper layer. A variation, proposed by Phillips and Salmon, uses extrapolation to place the Ekman term between the lower layer and the surface boundary layer, or at the surface boundary layer. We present theoretical results that show that in either the standard or the extrapolated configurations, the Ekman term dissipates energy at large scales, but does not dissipate potential enstrophy. It also creates an approximately symmetric stable distribution of potential enstrophy between the two layers. The behavior of the Ekman term changes fundamentally at small scales. Under the standard formulation, the Ekman term will unconditionally dissipate energy and also dissipate, under very minor conditions, potential enstrophy at small scales. However, under the extrapolated formulation, there exist small "negative regions", which are defined over a two-dimensional phase space, capturing the distribution of energy per wavenumber between baroclinic energy and barotropic energy, and the distribution of potential enstrophy per wavenumber between the upper layer and the lower layer, where the Ekman term may inject energy or potential enstrophy.