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Inertial-Convective Subrange Estimates of Thermal Variance Dissipation Rate from Moored Temperature Measurements

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  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology, Tongji University, Shanghai, China
  • | 2 College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
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Abstract

A procedure for estimating thermal variance dissipation rate χT by scaling the inertial-convective subrange of temperature gradient spectra from thermistor measurements on a Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) equatorial mooring, maintained by NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center, is demonstrated. The inertial-convective subrange of wavenumbers/frequencies is contaminated by the vertical motion induced by the pumping of the surface float by surface gravity waves through the local vertical temperature gradient. The uncontaminated signal can be retrieved by removing the part of the measured signal that is coherent with the signal induced by surface gravity waves, which must be measured independently. An estimate of χT is then obtained by fitting corrected spectra to theoretical temperature gradient spectra over the inertial-convective subrange (0.05 < f < 0.5 Hz); this estimate is referred to as χTIC. Here χTIC was calculated over 120-min intervals and compared with estimates of χTo determined by scaling temperature gradient spectra at high wavenumbers (viscous-convective and viscous-diffusive subranges). Large differences up to a factor of 20 and of unknown origin occur infrequently, especially when both background currents and vertical temperature gradients are weak, but the results herein indicate that 75% of the data pairs are within a factor of 3 of each other. Tests on 15-, 30-, 60-, 120-min intervals demonstrate that differences between the two methods are nearly random, unbiased, and less than estimates of natural variability determined from unrelated experiments at the same location. Because the inertial-convective subrange occupies a lower-frequency range than is typically used for turbulence measurements, the potential for more routine measurements of χT exists. The evaluation of degraded signals (resampled from original measurements) indicates that a particularly important component of such a measurement is the independent resolution of the surface wave–induced signal.

Corresponding author address: Yanwei Zhang, No. 1239 Siping Road, State Key Laboratary of Marine Geology, Tongji University, Shanghai, China 200092. Email: ywzhang@tongji.edu.cn

Abstract

A procedure for estimating thermal variance dissipation rate χT by scaling the inertial-convective subrange of temperature gradient spectra from thermistor measurements on a Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) equatorial mooring, maintained by NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center, is demonstrated. The inertial-convective subrange of wavenumbers/frequencies is contaminated by the vertical motion induced by the pumping of the surface float by surface gravity waves through the local vertical temperature gradient. The uncontaminated signal can be retrieved by removing the part of the measured signal that is coherent with the signal induced by surface gravity waves, which must be measured independently. An estimate of χT is then obtained by fitting corrected spectra to theoretical temperature gradient spectra over the inertial-convective subrange (0.05 < f < 0.5 Hz); this estimate is referred to as χTIC. Here χTIC was calculated over 120-min intervals and compared with estimates of χTo determined by scaling temperature gradient spectra at high wavenumbers (viscous-convective and viscous-diffusive subranges). Large differences up to a factor of 20 and of unknown origin occur infrequently, especially when both background currents and vertical temperature gradients are weak, but the results herein indicate that 75% of the data pairs are within a factor of 3 of each other. Tests on 15-, 30-, 60-, 120-min intervals demonstrate that differences between the two methods are nearly random, unbiased, and less than estimates of natural variability determined from unrelated experiments at the same location. Because the inertial-convective subrange occupies a lower-frequency range than is typically used for turbulence measurements, the potential for more routine measurements of χT exists. The evaluation of degraded signals (resampled from original measurements) indicates that a particularly important component of such a measurement is the independent resolution of the surface wave–induced signal.

Corresponding author address: Yanwei Zhang, No. 1239 Siping Road, State Key Laboratary of Marine Geology, Tongji University, Shanghai, China 200092. Email: ywzhang@tongji.edu.cn

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