Ocean Surface Boundary Layer Response to Abruptly Turning Winds

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  • 1 University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
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Abstract

Turbulence driven by wind and waves controls the transport of heat, momentum, and matter in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL). For realistic ocean conditions, winds and waves are often neither aligned nor constant, for example, when winds turn rapidly. Based on a Large Eddy Simulation (LES) method, which captures shear-driven turbulence (ST) and Langmuir turbulence (LT) driven by the Craik-Leibovich vortex force, we investigate the OSBL response to abruptly turning winds. We design idealized LES experiments, whose winds are initially constant to equilibrate OSBL turbulence before abruptly turning 90° either cyclonically or anticyclonically. The transient Stokes drift for LT is estimated from a spectral wave model. The OSBL response includes three successive stages that follow the change in direction. During stage 1, turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) decreases due to reduced TKE production. Stage 2 is characterized by TKE increasing with TKE shear production recovering and exceeding TKE dissipation. Transient TKE levels may exceed their stationary values due to inertial resonance and non-equilibrium turbulence. Turbulence relaxes to its equilibrium state at stage 3, but LT still adjusts due to slowly developing waves. During stages 1 and 2, greatly misaligned wind and waves lead to Eulerian TKE production exceeding Stokes TKE production. A Reynolds stress budget analysis and Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes equation models indicate that Stokes production furthermore drives the OSBL response. The Coriolis effects result in asymmetrical OSBL responses to wind turning directions. Our results suggest that transient wind conditions play a key role in understanding realistic OSBL dynamics.

Corresponding author: Xingchi Wang, wangxch@udel.edu

Abstract

Turbulence driven by wind and waves controls the transport of heat, momentum, and matter in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL). For realistic ocean conditions, winds and waves are often neither aligned nor constant, for example, when winds turn rapidly. Based on a Large Eddy Simulation (LES) method, which captures shear-driven turbulence (ST) and Langmuir turbulence (LT) driven by the Craik-Leibovich vortex force, we investigate the OSBL response to abruptly turning winds. We design idealized LES experiments, whose winds are initially constant to equilibrate OSBL turbulence before abruptly turning 90° either cyclonically or anticyclonically. The transient Stokes drift for LT is estimated from a spectral wave model. The OSBL response includes three successive stages that follow the change in direction. During stage 1, turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) decreases due to reduced TKE production. Stage 2 is characterized by TKE increasing with TKE shear production recovering and exceeding TKE dissipation. Transient TKE levels may exceed their stationary values due to inertial resonance and non-equilibrium turbulence. Turbulence relaxes to its equilibrium state at stage 3, but LT still adjusts due to slowly developing waves. During stages 1 and 2, greatly misaligned wind and waves lead to Eulerian TKE production exceeding Stokes TKE production. A Reynolds stress budget analysis and Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes equation models indicate that Stokes production furthermore drives the OSBL response. The Coriolis effects result in asymmetrical OSBL responses to wind turning directions. Our results suggest that transient wind conditions play a key role in understanding realistic OSBL dynamics.

Corresponding author: Xingchi Wang, wangxch@udel.edu
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