Journal of Oceanology and Limnology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 1189–1197 | Cite as

Convection: a neglected pathway for downward transfer of wind energy in the oceanic mixed layer

  • Yu Zhang (张钰)
  • Wei Wang (王伟)


Upper-ocean turbulent mixing plays a vital role in mediating air-sea fluxes and determining mixed-layer properties, but its energy source, especially that near the base of the mixed layer, remains unclear. Here we report a potentially significant yet rarely discussed pathway to turbulent mixing in the convective mixed layer. During convection, as surface fluid drops rapidly in the form of convective plumes, intense turbulence kinetic energy (TKE) generated via surface processes such as wave breaking is advected downward, enhancing TKE and mixing through the layer. The related power, when integrated over the global ocean except near the surface where the direct effect of breaking waves dominates, is estimated at O (1)TW, comparable to that required by maintaining the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC). The mechanism in question therefore deserves greater research attention, especially in view of the potential significance of its proper representation in climate models.


convective mixed layer convecting plumes turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) wind energy surface waves 


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The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Chinese Society for Oceanology and Limnology, Science Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Physical Oceanography Laboratory/CIMSTOcean University of China and Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina

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