Published In

Journal of Physical Oceanography

Document Type


Publication Date



Ocean circulation -- Tropics -- Mathematical models, Turbulence, Ocean mixing -- Tropics -- Mathematical models


A reexamination of turbulence dissipation measurements from the equatorial Pacific shows that the turbulence diffusivities are not a simple function of the gradient Richardson number. A widely used mixing scheme, the K-profile parameterization, overpredicts the turbulent vertical heat flux by roughly a factor of 4 in the stably stratified region between the surface mixed layer and the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC). Additionally, the heat flux divergence is of the incorrect sign in the upper 80 m. An alternative class of parameterizations is examined that expresses the mixing coefficients in terms of the large-scale kinetic energy, shear, and Richardson number. These representations collapse the turbulence diffusivities above and below the Equatorial Undercurrent, and a tuned version is able to reproduce the vertical turbulence heat flux within the 50?180-m depth range. Kinetic energy is not Galilean invariant, so the collapse of the data with the new parameterization suggests that oceanic turbulence responds to boundary forcing at depths well below the surface mixed layer.


This is the publisher's final PDF. © Copyright 2009 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or



Persistent Identifier