Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 139–150 | Cite as

The boundary layer of the residence time field

  • Éric J. M. DelhezEmail author
  • Éric Deleersnijder
Original paper


The residence time of a tracer in a control domain is usually computed by releasing tracer parcels and registering the time when each of these tracer parcels cross the boundary of the control domain. In this Lagrangian procedure, the particles are discarded or omitted as soon as they leave the control domain. In a Eulerian approach, the same approach can be implemented by integrating forward in time the advection–diffusion equation for a tracer. So far, the conditions to be applied at the boundary of the control domain were uncertain. We show here that it is necessary to prescribe that the tracer concentration vanishes at the boundary of the control domain to ensure the compatibility between the Lagrangian and Eulerian approaches. When we use the Constituent oriented Age and Residence time Theory (CART), this amounts to solving the differential equation for the residence time with boundary conditions forcing the residence time to vanish at the open boundaries of the control domain. Such boundary conditions are likely to induce the development of boundary layers (at outflow boundaries for the tracer concentration and at inflow boundaries for the residence time). The thickness of these boundary layers is of the order of the ratio of the diffusivity to the velocity. They can however be partly smoothed by tidal and other oscillating flows.


Residence time Advection–diffusion Diagnostic Adjoint modelling Boundary layer 



E. Deleersnijder is a Research Associate with the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (F.N.R.S.). The authors thank Philippe Ruelle for pointing out very useful references. This paper is MARE publication n° 77. Part of this work was supported by the French Community of Belgium (RACE, ARC-05/10-333).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université de Liège, Modélisation et Méthodes MathématiquesLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.Université catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve), G. Lemaître Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics (ASTR) & Centre for Systems Engineering and Applied Mechanics (CESAME)Louvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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