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You are on page 1of 33

Geophysical Fluid Dynamics II midterm paper. Group 2: Emily Riley, Guy Cascella,

Pedro Di Nezio and Xiaofang Zhu.

Table of Contents

Introduction .............................................................................................................. 1

Ekman layer.......................................................................................................... 4

Matching principle................................................................................................. 6

Spin down........................................................................................................... 12

Spin up ............................................................................................................... 13

Conclusion ............................................................................................................. 29

Introduction

The small aspect ratio of geophysical fluids constrains their motions to be primarily

horizontal. However, friction between the main horizontal motion and the boundaries

acts to reduce the velocity creating a vertical shear. In such a circumstance the fluid

system exhibits two distinct behaviors:

• Interior flow. The flow at some distance from the boundaries where friction is

usually negligible.

• Boundary layer or Ekman layer. The flow near the boundaries where frictional

effects become important and the velocity of flow is brought down to zero at the

boundary.

To a first approximation geostrophic balance holds for interior fluid motion. As the fluid

approaches a rigid boundary; though, ageostrophic motions are induced by friction and

geostrophy breaks down. As a result, the fluid motion near the boundaries becomes a

balance between the viscous forces and the Coriolis force. The break down of

geostrophy leads to across-isobaric flow from high to low pressure and vertical motion

with the consequent energy dissipation.

This paper seeks to explore the effect of stratification on the dynamics of the Ekman

layer and its interaction with the interior flow in a quasigeostrophic framework. The

fundamental equations of motion are considered together with approximations and

scaling. Examples for both the atmosphere and ocean are included to highlight the

effects of stratification in specific conditions. To conclude, the interaction between the

atmospheric and oceanic boundary layers is covered. The basics of Ekman dynamics

are considered background knowledge in this paper; for more details the reader is

referred to Pedlosky (1987) section 4.1 – 4.4.

foundation for the rest of paper. Section 2 considers how motion in the Ekman layer is

communicated to the interior flow. Section 3 analyzes the importance of stratification.

Sections 4 and 5 explore the stratification effects in the Ekman layer for the ocean and

the atmosphere, while section 6 explains the coupling of the two.

The content of this section is a summary from Pedlosky, 1987 (pp 200 – 212) where the

reader is referred for details. This section considers the motion in the Ekman layer

affected by friction in an idealized configuration. The results are afterwards easily

applied to either the ocean or atmosphere boundary layers. The motion of a

homogenous fluid bounded by two parallel planes perpendicular to the rotation axis is

considered. The upper plane imparts motion to the fluid and the lower plane rotates

fixed with the rotating frame of reference. figure 1 displays the details of the fluid

configuration.

1

r

The upper surface moves with a nondivergent velocity, uT and transfers momentum to

the bulk of the fluid through frictional coupling becoming the source for vorticity to the

system, ζ T . This idealized forcing is analogous to that of the wind stress over the upper

ocean Ekman layer. The matching principle and Ekman pumping/suction are the main

ideas developed to understand the relationship between the two regimes. The basics of

the classical Ekman spiral are considered background knowledge in this section; the

reader is referred to Pedlosky (1987) section 4.1 – 4.4 for more details.

then be expanded keeping only the zero order terms for both the interior flow and the

Ekman layer flow. Finally, the matching principle will be explained in order to

understand how the fluid motion smoothly transitions from the Ekman layer flow to the

interior flow.

coordinates, velocity and density:

( x ∗ , y ∗ ) = L ⋅ ( x , y ) , z∗ = Dz ,

D

( u ∗ ,v ∗ ) = U ⋅ ( u ,v ) , w ∗ = U w,

L

⎛L⎞

t ∗ = ⎜ ⎟t , p∗ = −ρgz + ρfULp ,

⎝U ⎠

where asterisks denote dimensional quantities and unprimed variables indicate non-

dimensional variables. D is half the distance between the upper and lower bounding

planes, L is a horizontal length scale and U is a characteristic velocity scale within the

fluid.

frictional effects included, we get the non-dimensional forms of the x, y, and z

momentum equations:

⎧ ∂u ∂u ∂u ∂u ⎫ ∂p E v ∂ 2 u E H ⎛ ∂ 2 u ∂ 2 u ⎞

ε⎨ + u +v +w ⎬−v = − + + ⎜ + ⎟, (1a)

⎩ ∂t ∂x ∂y ∂z ⎭ ∂x 2 ∂z 2 2 ⎜⎝ ∂x 2 ∂y 2 ⎟⎠

⎧ ∂v ∂v ∂v ∂v ⎫ ∂p E v ∂ 2v E H ⎛ ∂ 2 v ∂ 2v ⎞

ε⎨ + u +v +w ⎬ + u = − + + ⎜ + ⎟, (1b)

⎩ ∂t ∂x ∂y ∂z ⎭ ∂y 2 ∂z 2 2 ⎜⎝ ∂x 2 ∂y 2 ⎟

⎠

⎧ ∂w ∂w ∂w ∂w ⎫ ∂p ⎡ 2

2 Ev ∂ v E H ⎛ ∂ 2w ∂ 2w ⎞⎤

δ 2 ε⎨ +u +v +w ⎬ = − + δ ⎢ + ⎜ + ⎟⎥ , (1c)

⎩ ∂t ∂x ∂y ∂z ⎭ ∂z ⎢⎣ 2 ∂z

2

2 ⎜⎝ ∂x 2 ∂y 2 ⎟⎠⎥⎦

where

2

U

ε= , Rossby number,

fL

D

δ= , aspect ratio,

L

AV

EV = 2 , “vertical” Ekman number,

fD 2

AH

EH = 2 , “horizontal” Ekman number.

fL2

AV and AH are the vertical and horizontal turbulent viscosity coefficients respectively and

are considered constants. These turbulent or “eddy” viscosities come from the non-

linear terms in the momentum equations after applying Reynolds decomposition (i.e.

r r r r r r

replacing u with u = U + u ′ , where U is the non-turbulent mean flow and u ′ describes

the motion of the turbulent eddies). It is important to remind ourselves that the turbulent

viscosities are properties of the flow, unlike kinematic viscosities which are properties of

the fluid. The first term inside the curly brackets is the local velocity rate of change while

the remaining terms are the advection of velocity terms. The second term on the left

hand side (LHS) represents the Coriolis force. The first term on the right hand side

(RHS) is the pressure gradient force, while the last two terms represent vertical and

horizontal friction respectively. The scaling of the momentum equations (1) allows us to

determine the relative importance of the different small forces, which are important

when addressing geostrophic degeneracy.

w =0 z = 0,1

(2a)

u =v =0 z=0

u = uT ( x, y ) z =1

(2b)

v = v T ( x, y ) z =1

boundaries means no flow will pass through the surfaces. Only an inviscid fluid can

satisfy the first boundary condition, (2a), (i.e. the interior flow). The existence of frictional

forces in the fluid allow the second boundary condition, (2b), to be satisfied, by imposing

a horizontally nondivergent velocity (uT, vT) that can be associated with the motion of

the rotating lid. The motion of the fluid will be driven by the momentum transferred by

this external forcing. For instance, this forcing can be associated with the wind stress

over the ocean surface when the idealized configuration is used to represent the effect

of frictional layers in the ocean.

3

Interior flow dynamics

which is in turn function of all nondimensional parameters:

The small parameter, ∆ will become important in the next section when the higher order

terms are considered in a quasigeostrophic framework. If the expanded variables (3)

are then substituted into the non-dimensional momentum equations, (1a, b, c), and only

the O(1) terms are kept, the result for the horizontal velocity is geostrophic and

hydrostatic balance for the interior flow, i.e.

∂p o

uo = − , (4a)

∂y

∂p o

vo = , (4b)

∂x

∂p o

0= , (4c)

∂z

∂u o ∂v o ∂w o

+ + = 0. (5)

∂x ∂y ∂z

Ekman layer

Since we are interested not only in the motion of the fluid in the interior flow, but also on

the motion in the Ekman layer as well, we need a way to examine the fluid near the

boundaries z = 0,1 where the vertical derivative of the horizontal velocities are large. By

constraining ourselves to these regions near the boundaries, we force friction to enter

the equations. In order to explore the dynamics in the lower Ekman layer, region of the

flow near z = 0, we must rescale the vertical coordinate, z * = D ⋅ z so that the frictional

terms in the momentum equations are O(1) (the same procedure can be applied for the

upper Ekman layer, i.e. near z = 1). The new vertical coordinate is:

z

λ= , (6)

l

4

where l is the dimensionless boundary-layer thickness and is equal to:

2 Av

l = E v1/ 2 = D, (8)

f

E v ∂ 2 u E v ∂ 2v

constraining the friction terms , to be as large as the O(1) Coriolis

2l 2 ∂λ2 2l 2 ∂λ2

acceleration. The dimensional thickness associated l is represented by:

2 AV

l * = DE v1/ 2 = δ E = , (9)

f

becoming the appropriate scaling thickness when friction is important instead of D. This

depth scale is the Ekman layer thickness, δ E the parameter governing the e-folding

decay of classical Ekman spirals. The reader is referred to Ekman (1905) or Pedlosky

(1987) section 4.1 – 4.4 for more details.

The previous rescaling is key to understanding the flow in the Ekman layer, since it sets

a height scale where friction becomes comparable to the Coriolis term and thus with the

r

pressure terms. The rescaling takes place due to the rapidity in which u varies with z in

the friction layer. Put another way, the dynamical fields vary on a much smaller scale

than D in the frictional layer, thus making a new vertical coordinate based on the depth

of the frictional layer necessary.

⎧ ∂u ∂u ∂u w ∂u ⎫ ∂p E v ∂ 2 u E H ⎛ ∂ 2 u ∂ 2 u ⎞

ε⎨ + u +v + ⎬−v = − + 2 2 + ⎜⎜ 2 + 2 ⎟⎟ , (7a)

⎩ ∂t ∂x ∂y l ∂λ ⎭ ∂x 2l ∂λ 2 ⎝ ∂x ∂y ⎠

⎧ ∂v ∂v ∂v w ∂v ⎫ ∂p E v ∂ 2v E H ⎛ ∂ 2v ∂ 2v ⎞

ε⎨ + u +v + ⎬ + u = − + + ⎜ + ⎟⎟ , (7b)

⎩ ∂t ∂x ∂y l ∂λ ⎭ ∂y 2l 2 ∂λ2 2 ⎜⎝ ∂x 2 ∂y 2 ⎠

1 ∂p δ ⎡ E v ∂ 2w ⎤ 2 EH ⎛ ∂ w ∂ 2w ⎞

2

⎧ ∂w ∂w ∂w w ∂w ⎫ 2

δ ε⎨

2

+u +v + ⎬=− + 2 ⎢ 2 ⎥

+δ ⎜ ∂x 2 + ∂y 2 ⎟⎟ ,

⎜ (7c)

⎩ ∂t ∂x ∂y l ∂λ ⎭ l ∂λ l ⎣ 2 ∂λ ⎦ 2 ⎝ ⎠

∂u ∂v 1 ∂w

+ + =0. (7d)

∂x ∂y l ∂λ

5

v = v~( x, y , λ, t , E v , E H , ε, δ) = v~o ( x, y , λ, t ) + ... , (10b)

~ ~

W = W ( x, y , λ, t , E v , E H , ε, δ) = Wo ( x, y , λ, t ) + ... , (10c)

~ ( x, y , λ, t ) + ... ,

p = u~( x, y , λ, t , E v , E H , ε, δ) = p (10d)

o

where the tilde tells us the expansion is valid in the boundary layer near z = 0. Now, just

as the vertical coordinate had to be rescaled for the Ekman layer the aspect ratio and

D δ

vertical velocity must also be rescaled. The proper aspect ratio is no longer , but E ,

L L

as we are concerned now with the depth over which friction is important. The vertical

velocity then becomes,

⎛ δ ⎞ D δE UD

w * = O⎜ U E ⎟ = U = E v1 / 2 . (11)

⎝ L ⎠ L D L

If the rescaling of the vertical velocity, (11), is substituted into (7a, b, c) and each

boundary layer variable is expanded, as in (10), and only the O(1) terms are retained,

the momentum and continuity equations become,

∂p~ 1 ∂ 2 u~o

− v~o = − o

+ , (12a)

∂x 2 ∂λ2

~

∂p 1 ∂ 2v~o

~

uo = − o

+ , (12b)

∂y 2 ∂λ2

~

∂p

0=− o

, (12c)

∂λ

and

~

∂W o ⎛ ∂u~o ∂v~o ⎞

= −⎜⎜ + ⎟⎟ . (12d)

∂λ ⎝ ∂x ∂y ⎠

Matching principle

We now have two representations for each variable, one for the interior (e.g. po) and

one for the boundary layer (e.g. ~p0 ). These two representations must merge smoothly

together at the boundary layer – interior flow interface, i.e.,

~ = lim p

lim p (13)

o o

λ →∞ z →0

6

This is considered the matching principle and represents the smooth transition from the

Ekman layer into the interior. It will be shown that this transition takes place by a small

vertical velocity being pumped out of the Ekman layer into the interior flow, via w. To

proceed, the equations for the boundary layer will be written in terms of the interior flow

so that w may be determined. To begin we note that p o and ~ p o are independent of z

and λ respectively (i.e. the fluid is homogeneous), so that for all λ in the boundary layer

∂~

po ∂po

= = v o ( x, y ) , (14a)

∂x ∂x

∂~

po ∂p

= o = −u o ( x , y ) . (14b)

∂y ∂y

This tells us that the horizontal pressure gradient in the Ekman layer is determined by

the interior horizontal pressure gradient. If the results in (14) are substituted into (12a,b)

the zero order horizontal momentum equations become:

1 ∂ 2u~o

v o ( x, y ) = v~o + , (15a)

2 ∂λ2

1 ∂ 2v~o

− u o ( x, y ) = −u~o + , (15b)

2 ∂λ2

The Ekman layer solution, satisfying the no-slip conditions on z = 0, is then derived, so

that u~o and v~o are known.

[ ]

u~o = u o ( x, y ) 1 − e − λ cos λ − v o ( x, y )e − λ sin λ

, (16)

[ ]

v~o = v o ( x, y ) 1 − e −λ cos λ − u o ( x, y )e −λ sin λ

~

Since u~o and v~o are known, we can solve for the O( E v1/ 2 ) term vertical velocity, W o , by

substituting the above equations into the continuity equation (12d) to get,

~ 1 ⎧ ∂v ∂u ⎫

[

Wo ( x, y , λ ) = ⎨ o − o ⎬ 1 − e −λ {cos λ + sin λ} ,

2 ⎩ ∂x ∂y ⎭

] (17)

~ 1 ⎧ ∂v ∂u ⎫ 1

Wo ( x, y , ∞ ) = ⎨ o − o ⎬ = ζ o , (18)

2 ⎩ ∂x ∂y ⎭ 2

The following equation relates the O(1) interior vorticity, ζ o to the O( EV1/ 2 ) velocity in the

Ekman layer, thus showing that a small vertical velocity is pumped out of the boundary

7

layer into the interior flow. Physically, this is due to cross-isobar (non divergent) flow

from high to low pressure in the boundary layer.

The matching principle is then applied to recover an expression for the vertical velocity

but in variables corresponding to the interior flow as follows:

~

lim W ( x, y , λ ) = lim w ( x, y , z ) .

λ →∞ z→0

E v1/ 2 ⎧ ∂v o ∂u o ⎫ E v1/ 2

w ( x, y ,0*) = ⎨ − ⎬= ζ0 , (19)

2 ⎩ ∂x ∂y ⎭ 2

to the lowest order, which establishes the lower boundary condition for the interior flow.

The 0 * notation is introduced to remind the reader that the previous expression (19) for

the vertical velocity is the result of limiting process in the approximate boundary

between the Ekman layer and the geostrophic interior.

The actual vertical distance from the boundary at which the vertical velocity is

represented by (19) is not z=0, since w ( x, y ,0) = 0 due to the boundary conditions (2a)

of the overall problem. This distance is of the order of a few length scales,

2 Av

l = E v1/ 2 = D so that the exponentials in (18) become sufficiently small. Figure 1

f

displays the setup considered in this analysis, including boundary conditions and the

different regimes within the fllow (i.e. Ekman layers and geostrophic interior).

If the same steps are applied to the upper surface of the Ekman layer the resulting

upper boundary condition for the interior flow is,

E v1/ 2

w ( x, y ,1* ) = {ζT ( x, y ) − ζ o ( x, y )}, (20)

2

where ζ T is the vorticity of the upper boundary and ζ o is the O(1) vorticity of the

interior. If ζ T > ζ o fluid moves outward in the upper Ekman layer, sucking fluid

vertically from the top of the interior. The same asterisk notation is applied here to

denote that the vertical velocity is evaluated in the boundary between the Ekman layer

and the geostrophic interior.

The importance of (19) and (20) is that any differences between the vorticity of the

interior flow and the vorticity of the boundary will produce an O( E v1/ 2 ) vertical velocity at

the edges of the interior flow. The small vortex tube stretching or compression of the

planetary vorticity that results from this is the primary mechanism by which the effects of

friction can be communicated into the interior.

8

r

ζT = ∇ × uT ⋅ kˆ

rotating lid ~

r w =W = 0

uT

z =1

upper Ekman layer few l

w z = 1*

Ev1/ 2

w= (ζT − ζ 0 )

2

r

geostrophic interior ζ 0 = ∇ × u0 ⋅ kˆ

Ev1/ 2

w= ζ0

2

w z =0*

lower Ekman layer few l

z =0

u=0

v =0

~

w =W =0

Figure 1 – Schematics showing the setup used to study the effect of frictional layers on a rotating fluid.

The whole configuration is rotating around a vertical axis with angular speed 2f, where f is the Coriolis

parameter. Different regimes are established in the fluid: an upper Ekman layer and a lower Ekman layer

bound a geostrophic interior. The system is driven by the vorticity input, ζ = ∇ × ur ⋅ kˆ imparted by the

T T

E 1/ 2

rotation of the upper lid. The vertical velocity, w = v (ζT − ζ 0 ) pumped out from the upper Ekman layer

2

r

into the geostrophic interior sets the geostrophic vorticity ζ 0 = ∇ × u0 ⋅ kˆ of the latter. A lower Ekman

layer is set by the interaction of the geostrophic interior with the lower boundary where fluid is pumped out

1/ 2

into the geostrophic interior at a rate w = Ev ζ 0 . Vertical coordinate, z is non dimensional. Both Ekman

2

layers have a thickness on the order of a few non dimensional Ekman depth, l.

In the next section will move beyond the O(1) terms, to explain quasigeostrophic

dynamics in the presence of friction.

9

2. Quasigeostrophic dynamics in the presence of Ekman layers

The content of this section is discussed primarily in Pedlosky, 1987 (pp 212 – 218)

where the reader is referred for details. The boundary layer equations were derived in

the previous section considering only O(1) terms for the interior flow, hence making the

flow geostrophic. Notwithstanding, in the presence of frictional layers, ageostrophic

velocities arise from three effects implicit in the scaled equations of motion for the

interior flow (1), namely:

horizontal velocities.

O(EV1/2) change in relative vorticity (19) and (20).

(1).

expand the dynamical variables (u,v,w and p) in order to develop a quasigeostrophic

formulation. The ratio between vorticity changes due to vortex stretching and due to

advection, r is assumed to be O(1) in order to consider the situation where both effects

are comparable:

1/ 2

EV vorticity changes due to vortex streching

r = = = O(1) . (21)

ε vorticity changes due to advection

The ratio between horizontal diffusion of momentum and inertial accelerations (point 3,

above) is:

E H 2 AH 2

= = = O(Re −1 ) ,

ε UL Re

UL

Re =

AH

This number is usually quite large for geophysical fluids, thus making Re-1 very small.

Regardless, the O(EH) terms are retained because the horizontal friction term become

important near vertical boundaries of an enclosed fluid.

If the interior flow variables u,v,w and p are expanded in series of ε and inserted in (1a,

b, c). The resulting O(1) terms are the geostrophic and hydrostatic equations as found

in the previous section (4a, b, c). The vertical velocity equations, (19) and (20), indicate

10

that w is O(EV1/2) at the boundaries, and since O(EV1/2) = O(ε) due to the assumption

implicit by (21), w0 must be zero. Consequently the O(ε) vertical velocities are:

1/ 2

E

w 1 ( x, y ,0*) = V ζ 0 ( x, y )

2ε

1/ 2

. (22)

E

w 1 ( x, y ,1*) = V (ζ T ( x, y ) − ζ 0 ( x, y ))

2ε

The fact that w0 must be zero for the interior flow makes also the O(1) horizontal velocity

field non-divergent and independent of z. If the O(ε) terms are kept when the x- and y-

momentum equations are expanded, and cross differentiation is applied to eliminate the

pressure gradient terms, the vorticity equation is obtained:

d0 ζ 0 ⎛ ∂u ∂v ⎞ 1 ⎛ ∂ 2 ∂2 ⎞

= −⎜⎜ 1 + 1 ⎟⎟ + ⎜ + ⎟ζ 0

dt ⎝ ∂x ∂x ⎠ Re ⎜⎝ ∂x 2 ∂y 2 ⎟⎠

∂w1 1 2

= + ∇ ζ0 .

∂z Re

The resulting equation indicates that the total change of O(1) relative vorticity is caused

by vortex tube stretching (first term, right hand side) and horizontal diffusion of vorticity

(second term, right hand side). Since only w1 depends on z, the previous equation can

be integrated in the z direction from z=0* to z=1*, the upper and lower boundaries

between the geostrophic interior and the frictional layers, yielding:

d0 ζ 0 1 2

= w1( x, y,1*) − w1( x, y,0*) + ∇ ζ0 .

dt Re

Once the results obtained in (22) for w 1 ( x, y ,1*) and w 1 ( x, y ,0*) are substituted in the

previous equation, the final form of the vorticity equation becomes:

d0ζ0 ⎧ ζ ⎫ 1 2

= −r ⎨ζ0 − T ⎬ + ∇ ζ0 . (23)

dt ⎩ 2 ⎭ Re

Since the O(1) variables are in geostrophic balance the vorticity equation can be written

in terms of the O(1) pressure field as follows:,

⎡ ∂ ∂p0 ∂ ∂p0 ∂ ⎤ 2 ⎡ 2 ζT ⎤

⎢ ∂t + ∂x ∂y + ∂y ∂x ⎥∇ p0 = −r ⎢∇ p0 − 2 ⎥ ,

⎣ ⎦ ⎣ ⎦

11

The right hand side on the previous equation represents the sole direct effect of the

frictional Ekman layer on the interior flow (i.e. the damping of vorticity). The magnitude

of this effect in controlled by the value of r as it will shown in the next two subsections.

Spin down

Consider the vorticity equation (23) derived in the previous section, the term

proportional to Re-1 can be safely neglected since it vanishes away from the lateral

walls where horizontal gradients in the horizontal velocity field are small. Additionally in

the absence of forcing ( ζ T = 0 ) the resulting equation is:

d0 ζ 0

= −rζ 0 ,

dt

The advection of vorticity terms implicit in the total derivative can be neglected to

linearize the equation. Since d0 ζ 0 dt ~ ∂ ζ 0 ∂t now, the linearized equation can be

integrated in time to obtain:

ζ 0 ( t ) = ζ 0 ( 0 )e −rt . (24)

Equation (24) simply states that in the absence of forcing, Ekman layers act to dissipate

the vorticity of the geostrophic interior according to the time scales implicit by r. In other

words, r-1 is the time taken for the system to reduce its vorticity to e-1~0.36 of its initial

value. The time scales implicit in r are the ratio of the advective time scale L / U and the

spin down time τ = EV −1 / 2 / f . The corresponding dimensional value for r-1 is the spin

down time:

L −1 L ε 1

r = 1/ 2

= 1/ 2

= τ,

U U EV fEV

In the real ocean-atmosphere, this result is representative of the spin-down effect of the

atmospheric Ekman layer on the atmospheric interior flow. Typical values of τ are on

the order of 10 days for the atmosphere and 40 days for the ocean.

It is interesting to note that the same damping effect on the interior flow would result

from a simple linear drag (-ru0, -rv0) in the x- and y-momentum equations in the absence

of an Ekman layer. Typical values for the drag coefficient are on the order of 100 days,

indicating that a linear drag process is much less efficient in dissipating the vorticity of

the interior flow than the ageostrophic motions induced by frictional layers.

However, the real mechanism through which a given flow dissipates its vorticity by the

interaction with an Ekman layer is different than a linear drag process. For instance,

consider a cyclonic vortex over a surface (ocean/land) with vorticity ζ 0 ( 0 ) > 0 as the

schematic in figure 2 shows. The Ekman layer in the lower boundary pumps fluid into

the vortex’s low-pressure center establishing a gradient in vertical velocity, ∂w 1 / ∂z .

12

This vertical velocity shear is negative and by continuity considerations makes the

interior flow divergent according to:

∂w 1

− = ∇ ⋅ u1

∂z

This O(ε) divergent horizontal flow is across the O(1) geostrophic streamlines from low

pressure (vortex center) to high pressure (vortex outside), therefore work is done by

geostrophic interior to maintain the Ekman layer making the fluid spin down to the state

of rest.

Figure 2 – Schematics showing the different flow regimes in a low pressure center. The positive vorticity

ζ o in the interior flow pumps fluid out of the boundary layer. As a consequence an across isobar flow is

induced within the boundary layer.

Spin up

On the other hand, when the motion is driven by the steady vorticity input ζ T associated

with motion of the upper lid, and the effect of friction in lateral walls is neglected, the

vorticity equation is:

d0 ζ 0 ⎛ ζ ⎞

= −r ⎜⎜ ζ 0 − T ⎟⎟

dt ⎝ 2⎠

In the real ocean-atmosphere, this case is representative of the spin-up effect of the

surface wind stress on the upper ocean. The case where r >> 1 (short spin-up time

compared to the advective scale) simplifies the vorticity equation to:

13

ζT

ζ 0 =∇ 2 p0 = .

2

The previous equation indicates that the upper limit for the vorticity of the geostrophic

interior is half the vorticity input by the driving mechanism (either a rotating upper lid or

the wind stress).

A general result for any value of r is obtained if one requires the vertical velocity in the

lower boundary layer being pumped out is balanced by the vertical velocity being

suctioned into the surface layer:

1/ 2 1/ 2

EV EV

w ( x, y ,0*) = ζ 0 ( x, y ) = (ζT ( x, y ) − ζ 0 ( x, y )) = w ( x, y ,1*) ,

2 2

or

1

ζ 0 ( x, y ) = ζT ( x , y ) .

2

The effect of turbulence and stratification

Geophysical flows have large Reynolds numbers associated with their inherently

turbulent character. The equations of motion used in previous sections rely on the

Reynolds decomposition for turbulent fluxes assuming constant enhanced eddy

viscosities as a closure scheme for turbulence. With the insight gained on Ekman

dynamics, it is clear that in a shear flow such as in an Ekman layer, the turbulence is not

homogeneous. Rather, the turbulence is more vigorous where the shear is greater and

also partially suppressed in the proximity of the boundary where the size of turbulent

eddies is restricted.

In the absence of an exact theory of turbulence, several schemes have been proposed.

For instance, a vertical eddy viscosity (AV) linearly increasing with depth has been

proposed to account for the inhibitory effect of the boundary upon turbulence (Madsen,

1977). Additionally eddy viscosities dependent on the bottom stress have been

proposed to obtain vertical velocities no longer directly proportional to the relative

vorticity of the geostrophic flow, but on a more complicated function of the geostrophic

flow (Cushman-Roisin and Malăcĭc, 1997).

The intensity of the surface heat flux plays an important role in the dynamics of the

surface atmospheric boundary layer during daytime over land and above warm currents

at sea. In such situations, the Ekman dynamics give way to convective motions which

are inextricably linked with the convection controlled by the intensity of the surface heat

flux.

14

Evidently, other processes besides geostrophic wind, as in the simplified model of

section 1, affect the dynamics of Ekman layers in the real ocean/atmosphere.

In this section the effect of stratification on frictional layers will be analyzed by focusing

on its effect on the O(ε) vertical velocity, w1. The content of this section is discussed

primarily in Pedlosky, 1987 (pp 360 –362) were the reader is referred for details.

For a homogeneous fluid the vertical velocity pumped out of the Ekman sets an

important boundary condition for the geostrophic interior dynamics, consequently we

seek to determine under what conditions stratification alters this condition.

pressure gradients in the stratified Ekman layer is given by a hydrostatic balance, since:

~ ∂λ = ~

∂p θ0 ,

0

where λ is the non dimensional vertical coordinate in the frictional layer defined in (6),

~

and θ0 is the potential temperature within the frictional layer.

~

d 0 θ0

+ S ⋅ w1 = 0 ,

dt

N 2D 2

S= 2 2 ,

f L

( N 2 is the stratification frequency) may give rise to an O(1) pressure vertical gradient.

An order of magnitude for the pressure vertical gradient within the frictional layer can be

−1/ 2

obtained from the fact that λ = O(EV ) :

~ ∂λ = O(E1/2 ⋅ S ⋅ w ) .

∂p0 V 1

(21) to obtain:

~ ∂λ = O(S ⋅ EV ) .

∂p0

ε

Thus, if

15

S ~ ∂λ = 0 ,

EV < O( ) ⇒ ∂p 0

ε

the equations of motion remain the same as in the homogeneous model. Consequently

the effect of stratification becomes negligible on the Ekman pumping/suction velocities

obtained for the homogeneous case.

the atmosphere/ocean are included in table 1. The grayed rows indicate that the

condition EV < O(S ε) is generally fulfilled in the geophysical flows of interest.

Atmosphere Ocean

N2 [s-2] 10-5 10-8

Ε 10-1 5 10-3

S 10-1 0.2 10-1

S/ε 1 2 10-1

EV 10-4 10-5

Table 1 – Orders of magnitude of dynamical variables involved in the discussion of the effect of

stratification on boundary layers. The values correspond to synoptic/mesoscale motions in the

atmosphere/ocean.

order E1/2 represented an important transition in the dynamics of the fluid. This occurs

because the order of the vertical velocity is E1/2. For stratifications less than this value

Ekman layers play a dominant role in the dynamics. For stratifications greater than this,

the stratification inhibits the interior vertical velocity to be less than O(E1/2).

At this point the reader should have a firm understanding of the fundamentals of the

Ekman layer. In the following sections we will explore the ramifications of stratification

in the Ekman layer for the ocean (section 4) and the atmosphere (section 5), while

section 6 will explain the coupling of the two.

The upper ocean Ekman layer problem was defined and solved more than a century

ago by Ekman (1905) for homogeneous conditions. Ekman also anticipated that the

eddy diffusivity can not be considered constant when the density of the upper ocean is

not uniform. Additionally, there are fundamental aspects of the oceanic Ekman layer

problem that remain unsettled, including even important external variables, such as heat

flux. The great and enduring difficulty is that turbulent stress is important at lowest order

in the Ekman layer arising from the Reynolds decomposition. Measurement of Ekman

layers presents similar challenges, for instance the observed upper ocean current

16

includes significant contributions from tides, internal waves and quasi-geostrophic

motions that make complex the isolation of the wind driven velocity.

Different regimes are identified for the upper ocean Ekman layer:

1. The winter Ekman layer (Krauss, 1993; Schundlich and Price, 1998). In this case

the upper ocean is well mixed and the dynamics are well described by the linear

homogeneous Ekman model.

3. The Ekman layer under fair weather conditions (Price and Sundermayer, 1999).

Under fair weather the temporal variability of stratification due to the diurnal cycle

is found to play a major role in the structure of the Ekman layer.

Since the concern of this review is on the effect of stratification on Ekman dynamics, we

will focus on the work by Price and Sundermayer (1999). This study takes advantage of

observations obtained in the western Sargasso Sea during the LOTUS3 program, the

California current and a transect along 10°N in the Pacific Ocean. The dataset are

useful to study the structure of the Ekman layer under fair weather when stratification

effects are thought to be important.

In the three datasets the observed structure of the observed Ekman layer velocity has a

shape resembling that of a classical Ekman spiral. The observed current speed

decreases with depth following an e-folding spiral, however it decreases with depth

more rapidly than the current vector rotates to the right. The spirals also appear to be

flattened or compressed in the downwind direction. The total effect is that the direction

and speed change following different depth scales, Lθ and LS respectively. The ratio

between these depth scales is found to be Lθ LS ~ 2 − 3 while its value is 1 for a

classical Ekman layer.

r

The following equation for the Ekman velocity U E as a complex variable, U E makes

explicit how a flattened Ekman spiral can be related to different depth scales for the

speed and the direction,

⎡ ⎛ z ⎞ ⎛ z ⎞⎤

U E = U 0 ⎢exp⎜⎜ ⎟⎟(1 + i ) exp⎜⎜ i ⎟⎟⎥ .

⎣ ⎝ LS ⎠ ⎝ Lθ ⎠⎦

Moreover, the study carries out a preliminary evaluation of the observations by linear-

fitting them to a constant turbulent coefficient (AZ) model akin to that of Ekman. It differs

from the classical Ekman model in that the lower boundary condition is:

r

∂v

= 0, (24)

∂z z =−H

17

where H is taken to be a constant reference depth identified with the depth of the

seasonal o semi permanent stratification instead of an infinite depth as in Ekman’s

study. The obtained turbulent coefficients are found to explain more than 80% of the

variability for the three datasets.

Results in the same study obtained using a depth dependent coefficient AV(z) are also

unable to explain the flatness of the observed spiral, indicating that the classical

diffusion model is unable to account for the observed flattened spirals.

Since the diurnal cycle is an important mode of variability of the upper 10 to 30 m of the

water column, the study develops a model to include this effect on AV in attempt to

explain the mentioned flatness of the Ekman layers. Observations obtained in the

subtropical North Pacific, show the effect of the covariation of the turbulent diffusivity

with stratification during the diurnal cycle on the wind driven current (figure 3).

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

18

Figure 3 – Observed diurnal cycle of temperature and current from Price et al, 1986. The uppermost

dashed vector shows the wind stress direction.

During the evening and early morning the ocean is neutrally stratified, i.e. a density

mixed layer was observed to a depth of 20 – 30m. Comparatively little vertical shear is

observed consistent with a homogeneous Ekman layer (figure 3a). As the surface layer

is warmed approaching noon the current becomes trapped in the warmed surface layer

(figure 3b). The current turns to the right of the wind stress due to the Earth’s rotation

(i.e. Coriolis force) as the day progresses (figure 3c) until sundown, by then the jet has

turned ~90° to the right of the wind stress (figure 3d). During the evening and early

morning the current speed is reduced as a result of vertical mixing due to cooling.

The effect of the diurnal cycle on the Ekman layer is modeled as follows. The

assumptions are derived from the observations of velocity and temperature:

1. A very large diffusivity AV0 = 1000 10-4 m2 s-1 is assumed within a mixed layer of

thickness h(t) and AV0 = 0 below. This condition aims to model that most of the

vertical shear occurs with stable stratification conditions, and that it is comparably

small within the mixed layer.

2. The depth of the mixed layer h(t) undergoes a diurnal cycle with a saw tooth

shape. Its minimum is at the sea surface during daytime and its maximum is 50m

during nighttime. This condition accounts for the observed steep reduction of

turbulence and diffusivity below the mixed layer.

3. Under fair weather conditions the depth of the mixed layer has a large amplitude

diurnal cycle.

A Reynolds decomposition of the turbulent stresses allows makes the behavior of the

model due to the time dependent turbulent coefficient explicit:

∂v ∂v ′ ∂V

τ = AV = AV′ + AV ,

∂z ∂z ∂z

The second term on the right hand side is analogous to that of the linear model. The

eddy term (first on the right hand side) can be as large as the mean term and is not

parallel to the mean stress.

A critical part of the model is to define the stratification represented by the depth of the

semipermanent stratification H and the mixed layer depth h(t). H is assumed to be the

19

top of the seasonal main thermocline. Since we are concerned with short time scale

variability, H can be taken as constant. Under fair weather conditions the diurnal

variability of h(t) is modeled as a saw tooth function with maximum during the night and

minimum during the day. The night-time mixed layer thickness is equal to H and the day

time is a function of the wind stress and daily maximum heat flux. For more details on

the model the reader is referred to Price and Sundermeyer (1999). To conclude, the

model is evaluated with observations of wind stress, surface heat fluxes and the depth

of the semipermanent stratification from climatology and compared with current meter

observations.

The results of the study confirm that the time varying stratification due to the diurnal

cycle is able explain the observed flat Ekman spirals trapped in the mixed layer. While

the diurnal cycles dominates the stratification variability in the upper 10-20m, other

effects such as internal waves and seasonality are important, especially in tropical

regions where the Ekman layer is deeper than the diurnal warm layer.

Instability in the Ekman layer

One of the most prominent visual effects of Ekman layer instability in the atmosphere is

the creation of cloud streets (figure 4). They are a direct result of longitudinal roll

vortices (figure 5) which are derived from underlying instability mechanisms. These

longitudinal vortices are characterized by counterrotating roll vortices that fill the depth

of the boundary layer. These processes only take place when certain conditions are

met. Observations have shown that the optimal conditions for the formation of these

features are (1) moderate background winds/vertical shear (~5 m/s) and (2) a weakly

unstably stratified boundary layer (LeMone 1973). Moreover, the roll axis of the

longitudinal vortices is generally found to be approximately parallel to the geostrophic

flow (Lilly 1966). That having been said, the two distinct mechanisms via which

instability is manifested in the Ekman Layer, shear and buoyancy instabilities, will now

be discussed.

20

Figure 4 – Cloud streets off the Georgia coast (from Brown, 1974).

21

Figure 5 – Schematic of longitudinal roll vortices.

stratification of the boundary layer. Since temperatures in this layer decrease with

height, the mechanism for buoyancy processes is present most of the time. In contrast

to our assumed background conditions, it should be noted that increased surface

heating will increase vertical velocities such that the longitudinal rolls will be unable to

form, thus ending the possibly for the formation of cloud streets. Convective instability,

on its own, produces quasi-2 dimensional cells which are not organized linearly.

However, when a background mean flow (shear) is present the cells are allowed to form

into longitudinal roll vortices.

Stratification also plays a role in dynamic instability. In the atmosphere, horizontal layers

may be distinguished by differences in velocity magnitude, direction, or both (Brown

1980). Under the restricted conditions noted earlier, it turns out that dynamic instability

is only created via the presence of an inflection point in the velocity field. This inflection

point typically occurs at the interface between two layers, and inevitably leads to a

vorticity maximum at the inflection point. The magnitude of the instability created is

determined by the steepness of the velocity gradient across the interface, which is

determined by the ratio of the directional and speed sheer across the Ekman Layer.

Frictional forces are sometimes not strong enough to counteract this shear forcing, and

thus any perturbation imposed on the new field will generate waves. These waves will

amplify until they change the overall flow to a more stable pattern. This change in flow

may result in the formation of longitudinal rolls.

Both experimentation and theoretical analysis have confirmed that flow in the Ekman

Layer becomes unstable for Re > 55 (e.g. Brown 1972, Lilly 1966, Kaylor and Faller

1972), but it is not unusual, and actually fairly typical, to find Re values on an order of

magnitude greater. However, another parameter exists, the Richardson Number (Ri),

which may either amplify or damp the effects of an unstable Reynolds Number. Here, in

the presence of stratification, the Richardson Number is defined as:

Ri ≡ 2

= .

⎛ du ⎞ shear generation of turbulence

⎜ ⎟

⎝ dz ⎠

When Ri > .25 at the inflection point, it is found that instability is completely suppressed,

regardless of the aforementioned conditions. It should be noted, though, that the

majority of studies which make this assumption of the “critical Richardson Number”

have not included the effects of rotation.

If we apply a scaling to the definition of the Richardson Number, it can be seen that the

underlying dynamical mechanisms necessary for the generation of instability in the

22

atmospheric Ekman layer typically exist. Assuming the longitudinal roll vortices fill the

depth of the Ekman layer (e.g. Brown, LeMone, Kraus), we have:

N2 N2 10 -5 s -1

Ri ≡ ~ = = 0.1

⎛ du ⎞

2

⎛U ⎞

2

⎛ 10 m/s ⎞

⎜ ⎟ ⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ ⎜ ⎟

⎝ dz ⎠ ⎝ δE ⎠ ⎝ 1000 m ⎠

The derived value is clearly less than the theoretical critical Richardson Number, which

would indicate that instability is generally possible. However, we must recall that

significant vertical motions associated with moderate to strong convection will inhibit the

formation of longitudinal vortices (i.e. the Brunt-Vaisala frequency increases in value for

convective processes). Thus, again, ideal circumstances must be present for the

formation of these instabilities.

Until this point we have assumed a weakly unstably stratified system, inclusive of

variations of temperature and velocity with height. In a study by Kaylor and Faller

(1972), it was shown that similar instabilities (here, internal waves) could be created in a

stably stratified environment. In this case, internal waves take the place of the

longitudinal rolls created in the unstable scenario. The internal waves are generated

when the frequency of the shear flow is close to the frequency of a possible internal

gravity wave. In such a case, resonance occurs and the internal wave can grow. Similar

values for the critical parameters are still assumed (see Kaylor and Faller 1972)

throughout the model simulation.

Overall, the main take away point from this section is that instabilities may result from

both stably and unstably stratified atmospheric Ekman Layers. Thus, the effect of

stratification on the Ekman Layer is critical to understanding the totality of its dynamics.

The coupling of the atmospheric and ocean Ekman layers is best understood by

considering the matching boundary conditions at the interface of the two. We start by

introducing the classical form of the double Ekman Spiral, as well as the viscous

coupling conditions. Then we introduce the concept of inertial coupling.

r

The velocity field, u in both the atmosphere and ocean is assumed to have two

components,

r r r

u = ug + uE .

This decomposition is done to represent the response of the fluid to the two driving

r r

mechanisms. u g is pressure driven component of the velocity and u E is the component

associated with the vertical stress gradient.

23

The steady state equations of motion for both the ocean and atmosphere are solved.

r

The horizontal velocity, u = (u,v ) is represented from now on as a complex variable,

U = u + iv , where i is the complex unit. Since we have two second order equations in U,

four boundary conditions are needed.

Two of them exist at the interface and become the conditions for viscous coupling:

Viscous coupling

τ s = ρ air AZair = ρ ocean AZocean

interface ∂n 0

∂n 0

And the remaining two boundary conditions are in the non-slip conditions for the velocity

U at the atmosphere upper boundary and at the ocean bottom:

U ocean = 0 z→∞

The solutions are the classical double Ekman spiral (see figure 6):

z z

( i − 1)z − i

U air = U gair − ( −U Eair ) = U gair [ 1 − ( 1 − µ ) exp ] = U gair − U gair ( 1 − µ )e DEair e DEair , (25a)

DEair

z z

( 1 − i )z − i

U ocean = U gair µ exp = U gair µe DEocean e DEocean , (25b)

DEocean

ρ air A

µ= ( air ) , the diffusion capacity with a typical of µ = 0.005 ,

ρ water Aocean

0. 5

⎡ 2A ⎤

DEair = ⎢ air ⎥ , the Ekman depth for the atmosphere,

⎣ f ⎦

0. 5

⎡ 2A ⎤

DEocean = ⎢ ocean ⎥ , the Ekman depth for the ocean.

⎣ f ⎦

24

The velocity profile of the atmosphere takes the form of the classic Ekman spiral given

by equation 25a. The atmosphere velocity U decreases to zero approaching the

interface, remaining purely geostrophic away from the Ekman layer. The corresponding

Ekman depth, DEair gives a measure of the depth over which the effects of the interface

are important.

The velocity profile of the ocean is given by equation 25b. The ocean total velocity

decays with depth to zero at the bottom. The corresponding Ekman depth, DEocean gives

a measure of the depth over which the effects of the interface are important.

Figure 6 – Double Ekman Spiral. The frame of reference moves with the drift velocity at the ocean

surface, U 0 . The surface drift and Ekman spiral in the ocean are magnified about 30 times to make them

comparable to the velocities in the atmosphere. (Kraus et al, 1994). The ocean Ekman spiral is

represented relative to the drift velocity U 0 . In other words, when the drift velocity U 0 is vectorially added

to the displayed ocean profile it takes the form of classical Ekman spiral.

The interaction between fluids with large density contrasts such as the ocean and the

atmosphere is dominated by waves. To account for the effect of waves on coupled

Ekman layers, let us suppose now that the interfacial Lagrangian velocity can be

→ →

partitioned into two parts: a non-wave induced part u 0 and wave induced part uL in fluid

25

→

1 (atmosphere) and a wave induced component ε u L in fluid two (ocean), where

ε = (ρ1 ρ 2 )1 2 is the squared root of the ratio between the densities of the two fluids.

Unlike the viscous case, the addition of a wave component, makes the velocity

discontinuous. Simultaneously the shear stress continuity condition across the interface

remains the same as in the viscous case. Figure 7 shows the conceptual distribution of

velocities in both boundary layers.

Figure 7 – Schematics showing two inertially coupled planetary boundary layers. z B is the wave

r r

boundary. The height at which u = uG1 defines the planetary boundary layer thickness.

A bulk relationship for the surface shear stress is applied both for the atmosphere and

ocean with transfer coefficient for momentum, K L :

r r r r r r r

τ s = ρ1K L u1 − u 0 − u L (u1 − u 0 − u L ) (air) (26a)

r r r r r r r

τ s = ρ 2 K L u 0 − εu L − u 2 (u 0 − Au L − u 2 ) (water) (26b)

r

Eliminating u L , which is an arbitrary wave velocity, from equation 26a and 26b and

comparing with 26a, the set of inertial coupling conditions is simplified. As long as there

is wave present in the interface (which is most time the case), the follow inertial coupling

relationships hold:

26

Inertial coupling boundary condition

r 1 r r 1 r r ⎡r r 1 r r ⎤

τS = ρ1K L u1 − u 0 − (u1 − u 0 ) ⋅ ⎢u1 − u 0 − (u1 − u 0 )⎥ (27a)

4 ε ⎣ ε ⎦

r r r r

εu1 + u 2 = 2εu L + (1 + ε )u 0 (27b)

In the previous subsection we found the integrating the shear stress for viscous

r r r

coupling, results in τS ∝ (u1 − u 2 ) . In the inertial coupling case will have same relation

only if ε = 1 . But in the case of fluids with big density contrast, such as air and ocean

ε << 1 , thus the difference between formulations becomes significant.

Here we will not go through step by step how the solution was attained, rather,

important steps will be presented and emphasis will be placed on analysis of results as

well as how it is related to the classical viscous coupling results.

The dominating equations are still the same, with assumption that total velocity could be

partitioned to geostrophic velocity and Ekman frictional velocity. The only difference

here is we use inertial coupling boundary condition rather than viscous boundary

condition. The results are presented using a set of new variable

The following notation is introduced to discuss the results obtained from equations 27,

1/ 2 r

where the Uˆ i = ρ1 u i are the corresponding inertially weighted velocities. Additionally,

the inertially weighted shear across planetary boundary layer, i.e. planetary shear is

defined as:

r

G = ρ1 [(u g 1 − u 0 ) − (u g 2 − u 0 )].

1/ 2 r r r r

1/ 2

α = ⎛⎜ εκ ⎞

⎟ , κ here is Von Carmon’s constant , and K I = 1 / 4K L and

⎝ 2K I ⎠

r

τS

FˆS = is the normalized wave boundary shear.

(K I rτ S ) 1/ 2

Uˆ E 1 = −Uˆ E 2 , (28a)

Uˆ E 2 =

1

((2 + α )Gx + αGy , ((2 + α )Gy − αGx )) , (28b)

((2 + α ) 2 + α 2 )

27

α

FˆS = ((α + 1)G x − G y ,G x + (α + 1)G y ) . (28c)

(1 + α ) 2 + 1)

From equation 28a, we get that the inertially weighted Ekman velocities have the same

modulus, but opposite direction. If we write results in polar coordinates, as shown by

figure 9, we found that there is always π / 4 angle difference between the wave

r

boundary shear stress τ s and the inertially weighted Ekman velocity Uˆ E1 , i.e.

δ + γ = π / 4 . This relationship is also valid for the classical Ekman spiral.

From equation 28b, we obtain a solution that only depends on the parameter α :

r r r

εu L − u 2 + u 0

α = . (29)

wE

Where w E is the Ekman scale velocity for the ocean. Equation 29 indicates that α is

the ratio of the velocity shear in the wave boundary layer to the velocity shear in the

Ekman layer. Different values of α yields different set of results associated with

different physical phenomena:

is the Ekman limit in which the surface shear stress lies at a 45o angle to the left

of the inertially weighted geostrophic shear (northern hemisphere).

limit, the surface shear stress lies in the direction of the planetary shear.

28

3. Naturally occurred sea state ( δ ~ 36 o , γ ~!9 o ). In reality, the Ekman spiral is more

close to the Stokes limit.

For more details on the content of this subsection the reader is referred Bye (2002).

Conclusion

In the presence of boundaries the velocity field of a geostrophic flow must go to zero,

producing vertical stresses which make frictional effects important. A distinct dynamical

regime is set near the boundaries. The vertical scale over which vertical stresses are

important is set by the Ekman depth and defines the thickness of the Ekman layer.

The interaction of the Ekman layers with the geostrophic interior gives rise to vertical

motions upsetting the non-divergent character of geostrophic flows. Particularly, the

motions of the atmosphere Ekman layer are driven by the vorticity input from the

geostrophic wind. On the contrary, the motions of the ocean Ekman layer are set by the

vorticity input from frictional velocity at the interface.

the minor role friction plays in the momentum balance. However, in the absence of

forcing, Ekman layers act to dissipate the vorticity of geostrophic flows through cross

isobar flow induced by vertical motions. This dissipation takes place on a time scale

controlled by the Ekman number and the Coriolis parameter.

Turbulence and stratification are inextricably linked since stratification acts to inhibit

vertical motions. For synoptic/mesoscale motions in the atmosphere/ocean, the effect of

stratification becomes negligible on the Ekman pumping/suction velocities.

Consequently the results obtained for the homogeneous case are also valid in the

presence of stratification. Nevertheless, in some particular conditions such as the

Ekman layer under fair weather, stratification effects become important.

Parameterization schemes are usually implemented to model the Ekman dynamics in

these cases.

To conclude, the interfacial boundary condition between two coupled fluids such as the

ocean and the atmosphere is the fundamental aspect to represent the dynamics of the

Ekman layers in each fluid. While viscous coupling gave us classical double Ekman

spiral, inertial coupling seems to be more close to reality, given the ubiquity of waves at

the ocean/atmosphere interface.

References

Barcilon, V., and J. Pedlosky, 1967a: Linear theory of rotating stratified fluid motions. J.

Fluid Mech., 29, 1–26.

Barcilon, V., and J. Pedlosky, 1967b: A unified Linear theory of homogenous and

stratified rotating fluids. J. Fluid Mech., 29, 609–621.

29

Brown, R. A., 1974: Analytic Methods in Planetary Boundary Layer Modeling, 150 pp.,

John Wiley, New York, 1974.

Brown, R. A., 1972: The Inflection Point Instability Problem for Stratified Rotating

Boundary Layers, J. Atmos. Sci., 29, 850–859.

Brown, R. A., 1980: Longitudinal Instabilities and Secondary Flows in the Planetary

Boundary Layer: A Review. Rev. Geophys. Space Phys., 18, 683–697.

Bye, J. A. T., 2002: Inertially Coupled Ekman Layers. Dyn. Atmos. Oceans, 35, 27–39.

Cushman-Rosin, B., Malăcĭc, V., 1997: Bottom Ekman Pumping with Stress-Dependent

Eddy Viscosity. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 27, 1967–1975.

Math. Astron. Fys., 2, 1–53.

Kaylor, R., and A. J., Faller, 1972: Instability of the Stratified Ekman Boundary Layer

and the Generation of Internal Waves. J. Atmos. Sci., 29, 497–509.

Kraus, E. B., and J. A., Businger, 1994: Atmosphere-Ocean Interaction, 2nd Edition.

Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Krauss, W., 1993: Ekman drift in homogeneous waters, J. Geophys. Res., 98, 20, 187–

20,209.

LeMone, M. A., 1973: The Structure and Dynamics of Horizontal Roll Vortices in the

Planetary Boundary Layer. J. Atmos. Sci., 30, 1077–1091.

Lilly, D. K., 1966: On the Instability of Ekman Boundary Flow. J. Atmos. Sci., 23, 481–

494.

Madsen, O. S., 1977: A realistic model of the wind-induced Ekman boundary layer. J.

Phys. Oceanogr., 7, 248–25.

Science, chap 6, pp. 287-344, Academic, San Diego, California.

Pedlosky, J., 1987: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, 710 pp., Springer, New York, NY.

Price, J. F., and M. A. Sundermeyer, 1999: Stratified Ekman Layers. J. Geosphys. Res.,

104, 467–494.

Price, J. F., Weller, R. A., and Schudlich, R. R., 1986: Wind-driven ocean currents and

Ekman transport, Science, 238, 1534–1538.

Schudlich, R. R., and J. F. Price, 1998: Observations of the seasonal variation in the

Ekman layer, J. Phys. Oceanogr., 28, 1187–1024.

30

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