PIA22256: NASA Simulation Shows Ocean Turbulence in the North Atlantic
 Target Name:  Earth
 Is a satellite of:  Sol (our sun)
 Product Size:  3778 x 2234 pixels (w x h)
 Produced By:  JPL
 Full-Res TIFF:  PIA22256.tif (17.06 MB)
 Full-Res JPEG:  PIA22256.jpg (2.186 MB)

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This image shows a simulated snapshot of ocean turbulence in the North Atlantic Ocean in March 2012, from a groundbreaking super-high-resolution global ocean simulation (approximately 1.2 miles, or 2 kilometers, horizontal resolution) developed at JPL (http://wwwcvs.mitgcm.org/viewvc/MITgcm/MITgcm_contrib/llc_hires/llc_4320/). The colors represent the magnitude of surface relative vorticity, a measure of the spin of fluid parcels. The image emphasizes fast-rotating, small-scale (defined here as 6.2 to 31-mile, or 10 to 50 kilometer, range) turbulence, especially during the winter. High levels of relative vorticity caused by small-scale turbulence are believed to strongly transport heat and carbon vertically in the ocean.

The image appears in a study (Su et al. 2018), entitled "Ocean submesoscales as a key component of the global heat budget," published recently in Nature Communications. The study suggests that upper-ocean small-scale turbulence transports heat upward in the ocean at a level five times larger than larger-scale heat transport by ocean eddies, significantly affecting the exchange of heat between the ocean interior and atmosphere. Such interactions have a crucial impact on the Earth's climate.

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