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Momentum and Energy Transport by Gravity Waves in Stochastically Driven Stratified Flows. Part I: Radiation of Gravity Waves from a Shear Layer

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  • 1 Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • | 2 National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece
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Abstract

In this paper, the emission of internal gravity waves from a local westerly shear layer is studied. Thermal and/or vorticity forcing of the shear layer with a wide range of frequencies and scales can lead to strong emission of gravity waves in the region exterior to the shear layer. The shear flow not only passively filters and refracts the emitted wave spectrum, but also actively participates in the gravity wave emission in conjunction with the distributed forcing. This interaction leads to enhanced radiated momentum fluxes but more importantly to enhanced gravity wave energy fluxes. This enhanced emission power can be traced to the nonnormal growth of the perturbations in the shear region, that is, to the transfer of the kinetic energy of the mean shear flow to the emitted gravity waves. The emitted wave energy flux increases with shear and can become as large as 30 times greater than the corresponding flux emitted in the absence of a localized shear region.

Waves that have horizontal wavelengths larger than the depth of the shear layer radiate easterly momentum away, whereas the shorter waves are trapped in the shear region and deposit their momentum at their critical levels. The observed spectrum, as well as the physical mechanisms influencing the spectrum such as wave interference and Doppler shifting effects, is discussed. While for large Richardson numbers there is equipartition of momentum among a wide range of frequencies, most of the energy is found to be carried by waves having vertical wavelengths in a narrow band around the value of twice the depth of the region. It is shown that the waves that are emitted from the shear region have vertical wavelengths of the size of the shear region.

Corresponding author address: Nikolaos Bakas, Geological Museum 403, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: bakas@fas.harvard.edu

Abstract

In this paper, the emission of internal gravity waves from a local westerly shear layer is studied. Thermal and/or vorticity forcing of the shear layer with a wide range of frequencies and scales can lead to strong emission of gravity waves in the region exterior to the shear layer. The shear flow not only passively filters and refracts the emitted wave spectrum, but also actively participates in the gravity wave emission in conjunction with the distributed forcing. This interaction leads to enhanced radiated momentum fluxes but more importantly to enhanced gravity wave energy fluxes. This enhanced emission power can be traced to the nonnormal growth of the perturbations in the shear region, that is, to the transfer of the kinetic energy of the mean shear flow to the emitted gravity waves. The emitted wave energy flux increases with shear and can become as large as 30 times greater than the corresponding flux emitted in the absence of a localized shear region.

Waves that have horizontal wavelengths larger than the depth of the shear layer radiate easterly momentum away, whereas the shorter waves are trapped in the shear region and deposit their momentum at their critical levels. The observed spectrum, as well as the physical mechanisms influencing the spectrum such as wave interference and Doppler shifting effects, is discussed. While for large Richardson numbers there is equipartition of momentum among a wide range of frequencies, most of the energy is found to be carried by waves having vertical wavelengths in a narrow band around the value of twice the depth of the region. It is shown that the waves that are emitted from the shear region have vertical wavelengths of the size of the shear region.

Corresponding author address: Nikolaos Bakas, Geological Museum 403, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Email: bakas@fas.harvard.edu

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