The surface mixing layer (SML) is the ocean side of the air-sea interface through which the fluxes of energy, momentum, and tracers have to pass in a coupled atmosphere-ocean system. Pathways and transformations of energy, momentum and tracers in the SML are complex, highly variable, and not suciently understood at the moment. Even in high-resolution ocean models, energy and momentum budgets for the surface layer are energetically inconsistent because the additional energy reservoirs and transformations due to unresolved processes (e.g., mesoscale/submesoscale motions, surface waves) are either ignored or not consistenty taken into account.
In our group, we currently focus on the dynamics and energetics of SML fronts and filaments. Different types of frontal instabilities may develop in the vicinity of such features, with important consequences for the transfer of energy among different processes and scales. We study these processes with the help of a high-resolution experimental approach, based on data from frontal regions in the Baltic Sea and the South Atlantic. We collaborate with reserachers from IOW's regional modeling group and the Helmholtz Center for Coastal Reserach in Geestacht, who investigate similar processes with the help of high-resolution numerical models. The project is embeded in the large-scale research project on "Energy transfers in Atmosphere and Ocean" (TRR181), funded by the German Reseach Foundation (DFG).