Eddy-mixing entropy and its maximization in forced-dissipative geostrophic turbulence

Tomos W. David, Laure Zanna, David P. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An equilibrium, or maximum entropy, statistical mechanics theory can be derived for ideal, unforced and inviscid, geophysical flows. However, for all geophysical flows which occur in nature, forcing and dissipation play a major role. Here, a study of eddy-mixing entropy in a forced-dissipative barotropic ocean model is presented. We heuristically investigate the temporal evolution of eddy-mixing entropy, as defined for the equilibrium theory, in a strongly forced and dissipative system. It is shown that the eddy-mixing entropy provides a descriptive tool for understanding three stages of the turbulence life cycle: growth of instability; formation of large scale structures; and steady state fluctuations. The fact that the eddy-mixing entropy behaves in a dynamically balanced way is not a priori clear and provides a novel means of quantifying turbulent disorder in geophysical flows. Further, by determining the relationship between the time evolution of entropy and the maximum entropy principle, evidence is found for the action of this principle in a forced-dissipative flow. The maximum entropy potential vorticity statistics are calculated for the flow and are compared with numerical simulations. Deficiencies of the maximum entropy statistics are discussed in the context of the mean-field approximation for energy. This study highlights the importance of entropy and statistical mechanics in the study of geostrophic turbulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number073206
JournalJournal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 27 2018


  • Fluctuating hydrodynamics
  • nonlinear dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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