Global surface eddy diffusivities derived from satellite altimetry

Abernathey, Ryan Patrick; Marshall, J.

[1] Velocities derived from AVISO sea-surface height observations, adjusted to be nondivergent, are used to simulate the evolution of passive tracers at the ocean surface. Eddy mixing rates are derived from the tracer fields in two ways. First, the method of Nakamura is applied to a sector in the East Pacific. Second, the Osborn-Cox diffusivity is calculated globally to yield estimates of diffusivity in two dimensions. The results from the East Pacific show weak meridional mixing at the surface in the Southern Ocean (&1000 m2 s−1, consistent with previous results) but higher mixing rates (~3000–5000 m2 s−1) in the tropical ocean. The Osborn-Cox diagnostic provides a global picture of mixing rates and agrees reasonably well with the results from the East Pacific. It also shows extremely high mixing rates (~104 m2 s−1) in western boundary current regions. The Osborn-Cox diffusivity is sensitive to the tracer initialization, which we attribute to the presence of anisotropic mixing processes. The mixing rates are strongly influenced by the presence of a mean flow nearly everywhere, as shown by comparison with an eddy-only calculation, with the mean flow absent. Finally, results are compared with other recent estimates of mixing rates using Lagrangian and inverse methods.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for AbernatheyMarshall2013.pdf AbernatheyMarshall2013.pdf application/pdf 8.42 MB Download File

Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
American Geophysical Union
Published Here
March 24, 2016