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An observational, modeling and theoretical study of the scales, growth rates and spectral fluxes of baroclinic instability in the ocean is presented, permitting a discussion of the relation between the instability scale, the first baroclinic deformation scale (R def ) and the equilibrated, observed eddy scale. The geography of the large-scale quasi-geostrophic potential vorticity (QGPV) distribution is mapped out using a climatological atlas and attention drawn to key asymmetries betweendoi:10.1175/2011jpo4404.1 fatcat:b4qfhkjv4nfg5p2plnkjck3k3e