Variability and sources of the internal wave continuum examined from global moored velocity records

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  • 1 Marine Physical Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego, California, USA.
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Abstract

Energy for ocean turbulence is thought to be transferred from its presumed sources (namely, the mesoscale eddy field, near-inertial internal waves and internal tides) to the internal wave continuum, and through the continuum via resonant triad interactions to breaking scales. To test these ideas, the level and variability of the oceanic internal gravity wave continuum spectrum are examined by computing time-dependent rotary spectra from a global database of 2260 current meter records deployed on 1362 separate moorings. Time series of energy in the continuum and the three “source bands” (near-inertial, tidal and mesoscale) are computed, and their variability and covariability examined. Seasonal modulation of the continuum by factors of up to 5 is seen in the upper ocean, implicating wind-driven near-inertial waves as an important source. The time series of the continuum is found to correlate more strongly with the near-inertial peak than with the semi-diurnal or mesoscale. The use of moored internal-wave kinetic energy frequency spectra as an alternate input to the traditional shear or strain wavenumber spectra in the Gregg-Henyey-Polzin finescale parameterization is explored and compared to traditional strain-based estimates.

Corresponding author address: Arnaud Le Boyer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 8622 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037. E-mail: aleboyer@ucsd.edu

Abstract

Energy for ocean turbulence is thought to be transferred from its presumed sources (namely, the mesoscale eddy field, near-inertial internal waves and internal tides) to the internal wave continuum, and through the continuum via resonant triad interactions to breaking scales. To test these ideas, the level and variability of the oceanic internal gravity wave continuum spectrum are examined by computing time-dependent rotary spectra from a global database of 2260 current meter records deployed on 1362 separate moorings. Time series of energy in the continuum and the three “source bands” (near-inertial, tidal and mesoscale) are computed, and their variability and covariability examined. Seasonal modulation of the continuum by factors of up to 5 is seen in the upper ocean, implicating wind-driven near-inertial waves as an important source. The time series of the continuum is found to correlate more strongly with the near-inertial peak than with the semi-diurnal or mesoscale. The use of moored internal-wave kinetic energy frequency spectra as an alternate input to the traditional shear or strain wavenumber spectra in the Gregg-Henyey-Polzin finescale parameterization is explored and compared to traditional strain-based estimates.

Corresponding author address: Arnaud Le Boyer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 8622 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037. E-mail: aleboyer@ucsd.edu
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