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Coherent Velocity Structures in the Mixed Layer: Characteristics, Energetics, and Turbulent Kinetic Energy Budget

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  • 1 a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
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Abstract

Velocity, hydrographic, and microstructure observations collected under moderate to high winds, large surface waves, and significant ocean-surface heat losses were utilized to examine coherent velocity structures (CVS) and turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) budget in the mixed layer on the outer shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico in February 2017. The CVS exhibited larger downward velocities in downwelling regions and weaker upward velocities in broader upwelling regions, elevated vertical velocity variance, vertical velocity maxima in the upper part of the mixed layer, and phasing of crosswind velocities relative to vertical velocities near the base of the mixed layer. Temporal scales ranged from 10 to 40 min, and estimated lateral scales ranged from 90 to 430 m, which were 1.5–6 times as large as the mixed layer depth. Nondimensional parameters, Langmuir and Hoenikker numbers, indicated that plausible forcing mechanisms were surface-wave-driven Langmuir vortex and destabilizing surface buoyancy flux. The rate of change of TKE, shear production, Stokes production, buoyancy production, vertical transport of TKE, and dissipation in the TKE budget were evaluated. The shear and Stokes productions, dissipation, and vertical transport of TKE were the dominant terms. The buoyancy production term was important at the sea surface, but it decreased rapidly in the interior. A large imbalance term was found under the unstable, high-wind, and high–sea state conditions. The cause of this imbalance cannot be determined with certainty through analyses of the available observations; however, our speculation is that the pressure transport is significant under these conditions.

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Corresponding author: Ewa.Jarosz@nrlssc.navy.mil

Abstract

Velocity, hydrographic, and microstructure observations collected under moderate to high winds, large surface waves, and significant ocean-surface heat losses were utilized to examine coherent velocity structures (CVS) and turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) budget in the mixed layer on the outer shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico in February 2017. The CVS exhibited larger downward velocities in downwelling regions and weaker upward velocities in broader upwelling regions, elevated vertical velocity variance, vertical velocity maxima in the upper part of the mixed layer, and phasing of crosswind velocities relative to vertical velocities near the base of the mixed layer. Temporal scales ranged from 10 to 40 min, and estimated lateral scales ranged from 90 to 430 m, which were 1.5–6 times as large as the mixed layer depth. Nondimensional parameters, Langmuir and Hoenikker numbers, indicated that plausible forcing mechanisms were surface-wave-driven Langmuir vortex and destabilizing surface buoyancy flux. The rate of change of TKE, shear production, Stokes production, buoyancy production, vertical transport of TKE, and dissipation in the TKE budget were evaluated. The shear and Stokes productions, dissipation, and vertical transport of TKE were the dominant terms. The buoyancy production term was important at the sea surface, but it decreased rapidly in the interior. A large imbalance term was found under the unstable, high-wind, and high–sea state conditions. The cause of this imbalance cannot be determined with certainty through analyses of the available observations; however, our speculation is that the pressure transport is significant under these conditions.

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Corresponding author: Ewa.Jarosz@nrlssc.navy.mil
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