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A new theory of oceanic and atmospheric energy spectra


Speaker:  Boris Galperin
Affiliation:  USF College of Marine Science
Title: A new theory of oceanic and atmospheric energy spectra
Date/Time: October 23, 2018 – 10:00am est


A new theory of oceanic and atmospheric energy spectra
Boris Galperin, CMS

Measurements of atmospheric winds taken by commercial aircraft in the 70s and 80s yielded estimates of the kinetic energy spectra in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. The spectra revealed surprising universality as they appeared independent of the altitude, season and latitude. They have become known as “canonical spectra” and used as a ‘measuring stick” for atmospheric models even though their physical nature remained poorly understood.

Recently, we derived analytical expressions for these spectra from first principles based upon an advanced turbulence theory. The agreement between the data and the theory is very good. The theory gave a completely new look at the physics behind the “canonical” spectra. It emphasized the dependence of the spectra on the latitude, the rate of turbulence dissipation, as well as the role of turbulence anisotropy.
The theoretical expressions apply not only to atmospheric but also oceanic spectra as they appear to be governed by the same physics. By its physical foundation, the new theory provides an alternative to the classical theory of geostrophic turbulence.

Generally, this research demonstrates that although an understanding of physical phenomena is usually data driven, the mathematics hidden in the governing equations is the backbone of physical theories. It provides the only “Ariadne’s thread” in data collection.


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