Turbulence is a fluid phenomenon with spatial dimensions that, on a geophysical scale, can range over nine orders of magnitude. From the small-scale, three-dimensional dissipative motions of the atmospheric or oceanic boundary layers to two-dimensional geostrophic turbulence at planetary scales. In between are a host of important geophysical processes.
The Committee's special focus is on processes in the atmospheric boundary layer and in the upper ocean from the thermocline to the surface. Turbulence transfers momentum in the atmosphere, in the ocean, and across the interface between the two; likewise, it disperses pollutants and natural contaminants in the two fluids. The stably stratified, yet sometimes turbulent, upper atmosphere, nocturnal boundary layer and deep ocean interior present unique problems and processes because of the temporal and spatial intermittency of that turbulence. At the opposite extreme is atmospheric and oceanic convection, where unstable stratification fosters continuous turbulence.