Upper-Ocean Inertial Currents Forced by a Strong Storm. Part II: Modeling

View More View Less
  • 1 Applied Physics Laboratory, College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
© Get Permissions
Restricted access

Abstract

The evolution of near-inertial frequency currents is often thought to be controlled by the linear, inviscid equations of motion. This hypothesis is tested by simulating the near-inertial currents described in Part I using a two-dimensional, nearly inviscid, nonlinear layer model with realistic wind forcing and stratification. The β effect and mixing of momentum below the mixed layer during the storm are crucial to realistic modeling, whereas the nonlinear terms have only a minor effect. The model fails to simulate the observations in several ways. First, the mixed layer inertial currents decay more rapidly than predicted and propagate into the thermocline with a different pattern. Second, the shear at the base of the mixed layer decays much more rapidly than predicted. Third, mesoscale eddies modulate the evolution of the inertial currents much less than predicted. These differences are much larger than the errors in the observations and cannot be removed by reasonable variations of the forcing or stratification. The nearly linear and inviscid internal wave equations thus cannot accurately predict the observed evolution of the near-inertial currents; additional physical processes, perhaps nonlinear interactions with smaller-scale internal waves and/or fronts, are required in the equations.

Abstract

The evolution of near-inertial frequency currents is often thought to be controlled by the linear, inviscid equations of motion. This hypothesis is tested by simulating the near-inertial currents described in Part I using a two-dimensional, nearly inviscid, nonlinear layer model with realistic wind forcing and stratification. The β effect and mixing of momentum below the mixed layer during the storm are crucial to realistic modeling, whereas the nonlinear terms have only a minor effect. The model fails to simulate the observations in several ways. First, the mixed layer inertial currents decay more rapidly than predicted and propagate into the thermocline with a different pattern. Second, the shear at the base of the mixed layer decays much more rapidly than predicted. Third, mesoscale eddies modulate the evolution of the inertial currents much less than predicted. These differences are much larger than the errors in the observations and cannot be removed by reasonable variations of the forcing or stratification. The nearly linear and inviscid internal wave equations thus cannot accurately predict the observed evolution of the near-inertial currents; additional physical processes, perhaps nonlinear interactions with smaller-scale internal waves and/or fronts, are required in the equations.

Save