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Resonant Wind-Driven Mixing in the Ocean Boundary Layer

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  • 1 College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
  • | 2 Department of Oceanography, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California
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Abstract

The role of resonant wind forcing in the ocean boundary layer was examined using an ocean large-eddy simulation (LES) model. The model simulates turbulent flow in a box, measuring ∼100–300 m on a side, whose top coincides with the ocean surface. Horizontal boundary conditions are periodic, and time-dependent wind forcing is applied at the surface. Two wind forcing scenarios were studied: one with resonant winds, that is, winds that rotated at exactly the inertial frequency (at 45°N), and a second with off-resonance winds from a constant direction. The evolution of momentum and temperature for both cases showed that resonant wind forcing produces much stronger surface currents and vertical mixing in comparison to the off-resonance case. Surface wave effects were also examined and found to be of secondary importance relative to the wind forcing.

The main goal was to quantify the main processes via which kinetic energy input by the wind is converted to potential energy in the form of changes in the upper-ocean temperature profile. In the resonant case, the initial pathway of wind energy was through the acceleration of an inertially rotating current. About half of the energy input into the inertial current was dissipated as the result of a turbulent energy cascade. Changes in the potential energy of the water column were ∼7% of the total input wind energy. The off-resonance case developed a much weaker inertial current system, and consequently less mixing because the wind acted to remove energy after ∼¼ inertial cycle. Local changes in the potential energy were much larger than the integrated values, signifying the vertical redistribution of water heated during the summer season.

Visualization of the LES results revealed coherent eddy structures with scales from 30–150 m. The largest-scale eddies dominated the vertical transport of heat and momentum and caused enhanced entrainment at the boundary layer base. Near the surface, the dominant eddies were driven by the Stokes vortex force and had the form of Langmuir cells. Near the base of the mixed layer, turbulent motions were driven primarily by the interaction of the inertial shear with turbulent Reynolds stresses. Bulk Richardson number and eddy diffusivity profiles from the model were consistent with one-dimensional model output using the K-profile parameterization.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eric Skyllingstad, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331.

Email: skylling@oce.orst.edu

Abstract

The role of resonant wind forcing in the ocean boundary layer was examined using an ocean large-eddy simulation (LES) model. The model simulates turbulent flow in a box, measuring ∼100–300 m on a side, whose top coincides with the ocean surface. Horizontal boundary conditions are periodic, and time-dependent wind forcing is applied at the surface. Two wind forcing scenarios were studied: one with resonant winds, that is, winds that rotated at exactly the inertial frequency (at 45°N), and a second with off-resonance winds from a constant direction. The evolution of momentum and temperature for both cases showed that resonant wind forcing produces much stronger surface currents and vertical mixing in comparison to the off-resonance case. Surface wave effects were also examined and found to be of secondary importance relative to the wind forcing.

The main goal was to quantify the main processes via which kinetic energy input by the wind is converted to potential energy in the form of changes in the upper-ocean temperature profile. In the resonant case, the initial pathway of wind energy was through the acceleration of an inertially rotating current. About half of the energy input into the inertial current was dissipated as the result of a turbulent energy cascade. Changes in the potential energy of the water column were ∼7% of the total input wind energy. The off-resonance case developed a much weaker inertial current system, and consequently less mixing because the wind acted to remove energy after ∼¼ inertial cycle. Local changes in the potential energy were much larger than the integrated values, signifying the vertical redistribution of water heated during the summer season.

Visualization of the LES results revealed coherent eddy structures with scales from 30–150 m. The largest-scale eddies dominated the vertical transport of heat and momentum and caused enhanced entrainment at the boundary layer base. Near the surface, the dominant eddies were driven by the Stokes vortex force and had the form of Langmuir cells. Near the base of the mixed layer, turbulent motions were driven primarily by the interaction of the inertial shear with turbulent Reynolds stresses. Bulk Richardson number and eddy diffusivity profiles from the model were consistent with one-dimensional model output using the K-profile parameterization.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eric Skyllingstad, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331.

Email: skylling@oce.orst.edu

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