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Upper-Bound General Circulation of the Ocean: A Theoretical Exposition

Ou, Hsien Wang

This paper considers the general ocean circulation (GOC) within the thermodynamical closure of our climate theory, which aims to deduce the generic climate state from first principles. The preceding papers of this theory have reduced planetary fluids to warm/cold masses and determined their bulk properties, which provide prior constraints for the derivation of the upper-bound circulation when the potential vorticity (PV) is homogenized in moving masses. In a companion paper on the general atmosphere circulation (GAC), this upper bound is seen to reproduce the observed prevailing wind, therefore forsaking discordant explanations of the easterly trade winds and the polar jet stream. In this paper on the ocean, we again show that this upper bound may replicate broad features of the observed circulation, including a western-intensified subtropical gyre and a counter-rotating tropical gyre feeding the equatorial undercurrent. Since PV homogenization has short-circuited the wind curl, the Sverdrup dynamics does not need to be the sole progenitor of the western intensification, as commonly perceived. Together with GAC, we posit that PV homogenization provides a unifying dynamical principle of the large-scale planetary circulation, which may be interpreted as the maximum macroscopic motion extractable by microscopic stirring, within the confines of thermal differentiation.


Also Published In

Journal of Marine Science and Engineering

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
December 3, 2021