Oceanic Mesoscale Eddy Depletion Catalyzed by Internal Waves

Roy Barkan, Kaushik Srinivasan, Luwei Yang, James C. McWilliams, Jonathan Gula, Clément Vic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The processes leading to the depletion of oceanic mesoscale kinetic energy (KE) and the energization of near-inertial internal waves are investigated using a suite of realistically forced regional ocean simulations. By carefully modifying the forcing fields we show that solutions where internal waves are forced have ∼ (Formula presented.) less mesoscale KE compared with solutions where they are not. We apply a coarse-graining method to quantify the KE fluxes across time scales and demonstrate that the decrease in mesoscale KE is associated with an internal wave-induced reduction of the inverse energy cascade and an enhancement of the forward energy cascade from sub-to super-inertial frequencies. The integrated KE forward transfer rate in the upper ocean is equivalent to half and a quarter of the regionally averaged near-inertial wind work in winter and summer, respectively, with the strongest fluxes localized at surface submesoscale fronts and filaments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL094376
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number18
StatePublished - 28 Sep 2021


  • internal waves
  • mesoscale eddies
  • oceanic energy transfers
  • submesoscale fronts

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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