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Surface Wave Effects on High-Frequency Currents over a Shelf Edge Bank

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  • 1 Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
  • | 2 Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina
  • | 3 Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
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Abstract

Several acoustic Doppler current profilers and vertical strings of temperature, conductivity, and pressure sensors, deployed on and around the East Flower Garden Bank (EFGB), were used to examine surface wave effects on high-frequency flows over the bank and to quantify spatial and temporal characteristic of these high-frequency flows. The EFGB, about 5-km wide and 10-km long, is located about 180-km southeast of Galveston, Texas, and consists of steep slopes on southern and eastern sides that rise from water depths over 100 m to within 20 m of the surface. Three-dimensional flows with frequencies ranging from 0.2 to 2 cycles per hour (cph) were observed in the mixed layer when wind speed and Stokes drift at the surface were large. These motions were stronger over the bank than outside the perimeter. The squared vertical velocity w2 was strongest near the surface and decayed exponentially with depth, and the e-folding length of w2 was 2 times larger than that of Stokes drift. The 2-h-averaged w2 in the mixed layer, scaled by the squared friction velocity, was largest when the turbulent Langmuir number was less than unity and the mixed layer was shallow. It is suggested that Langmuir circulation is responsible for the generation of vertical flows in the mixed layer, and that the increase in kinetic energy is due to an enhancement of Stokes drift by wave focusing. The lack of agreement with open-ocean Langmuir scaling arguments is likely due to the enhanced kinetic energy by wave focusing.

Corresponding author address: Hemantha W. Wijesekera, Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529. E-mail: hemantha.wijesekera@nrlssc.navy.mil

Abstract

Several acoustic Doppler current profilers and vertical strings of temperature, conductivity, and pressure sensors, deployed on and around the East Flower Garden Bank (EFGB), were used to examine surface wave effects on high-frequency flows over the bank and to quantify spatial and temporal characteristic of these high-frequency flows. The EFGB, about 5-km wide and 10-km long, is located about 180-km southeast of Galveston, Texas, and consists of steep slopes on southern and eastern sides that rise from water depths over 100 m to within 20 m of the surface. Three-dimensional flows with frequencies ranging from 0.2 to 2 cycles per hour (cph) were observed in the mixed layer when wind speed and Stokes drift at the surface were large. These motions were stronger over the bank than outside the perimeter. The squared vertical velocity w2 was strongest near the surface and decayed exponentially with depth, and the e-folding length of w2 was 2 times larger than that of Stokes drift. The 2-h-averaged w2 in the mixed layer, scaled by the squared friction velocity, was largest when the turbulent Langmuir number was less than unity and the mixed layer was shallow. It is suggested that Langmuir circulation is responsible for the generation of vertical flows in the mixed layer, and that the increase in kinetic energy is due to an enhancement of Stokes drift by wave focusing. The lack of agreement with open-ocean Langmuir scaling arguments is likely due to the enhanced kinetic energy by wave focusing.

Corresponding author address: Hemantha W. Wijesekera, Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529. E-mail: hemantha.wijesekera@nrlssc.navy.mil
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