Measurements of deep convection from fully Lagrangian floats deployed in the Labrador Sea during February and March 1997 are compared with results from model drifters embedded in a large eddy simulation (LES) of the rapidly deepening mixed layer. The deep Lagrangian floats (DLFs) have a large vertical drag, and are designed to nearly match the density and compressibility of seawater. The high-resolution numerical simulation of deep convective turbulence uses initial conditions and surface forcing obtained from in situ oceanic and atmospheric observations made by the R/V Knorr. The response of model floats to the resolved large eddy fields of buoyancy and velocity is simulated for floats that are 5 g too buoyant, as well as for floats that are correctly ballasted. Mean profiles of potential temperature, Lagrangian rates of heating and acceleration, vertical turbulent kinetic energy (TKE), vertical heat flux, potential temperature variance, and float probability distribution functions (PDFs) are compared for actual and model floats.
Horizontally homogeneous convection, as represented by the LES model, accounts for most of the first and second order statistics from float observations, except that observed temperature variance is several times larger than model variance. There are no correspondingly large differences in vertical TKE, heat flux, or mixed layer depth. The augmented temperature variance may be due to mixing across large-scale temperature and salinity gradients that are largely compensated in buoyancy. The rest of the DLF statistics agree well with the response of correctly ballasted model floats in the lowest 75% of the mixed layer, and are less consistent with results from buoyantly ballasted model floats.
Other differences between observation and simulation in the mean profiles of heat flux, vertical TKE, and Lagrangian heating and vertical acceleration rates are confined to the upper quarter of the mixed layer. These differences are small contributions to layer-averaged quantities, but represent statistically significant profile features. Larger observed values of heat flux and vertical TKE in the upper quarter of the mixed layer are more consistent with model floats ballasted light. Float buoyancy, however, cannot fully account for the observed PDFs, temperature profiles, and Lagrangian rates of heating and acceleration. A test of Lagrangian self-consistency comparing vertical TKE and Lagrangian acceleration also shows that DLF measurements are not significantly affected by excess float buoyancy. These upper mixed layer features may instead be due to the interaction of wind-driven currents and baroclinicity.
Corresponding author address: Dr. Ramsey R. Harcourt, Dept. of Oceanography/Code OC/Ha, Naval Postgraduate School, 833 Dyer Road, Bldg. 232, Rm. 328, Monterey, CA 93943. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org