AUV Observations of Langmuir Turbulence in a Stratified Shelf Sea

Alexander W. Fisher 1Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
2Washington State Department of Ecology, Lacy, Washington, USA

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Nicholas J. Nidzieko 3Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

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Abstract

Measurements collected by a REMUS 600 AUV off the coast of southern California demonstrate large-scale coherent wave-driven vortices, consistent with Langmuir turbulence (LT), played a dominant role in structuring turbulent dissipation within the oceanic surface boundary layer. During a 10-hour period with sustained wind speeds of 10 m s−1, Langmuir circulations were limited to the upper third of the surface mixed layer by persistent stratification within the water column. The ensemble-averaged circulation, calculated using conditional averaging of AD2CP velocity profiles using elevated backscattering intensity associated with subsurface bubble clouds, indicates that LT vortex pairs were characterized by an energetic downwelling zone flanked by broader, weaker upwelling regions with vertical velocity magnitudes similar to previous numerical studies of LT. Horizontally-distributed microstructure estimates of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates were lognormally-distributed near the surface in the wave mixing layer with the majority of values falling between wall layer scaling and wave transport layer scaling. Partitioning dissipation rates between downwelling centers and ambient conditions suggests that LT may play a dominant role in elevating dissipation rates in the OSBL by redistributing wave breaking turbulence.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: A.W. Fisher, afisher@apl.washington.edu

Abstract

Measurements collected by a REMUS 600 AUV off the coast of southern California demonstrate large-scale coherent wave-driven vortices, consistent with Langmuir turbulence (LT), played a dominant role in structuring turbulent dissipation within the oceanic surface boundary layer. During a 10-hour period with sustained wind speeds of 10 m s−1, Langmuir circulations were limited to the upper third of the surface mixed layer by persistent stratification within the water column. The ensemble-averaged circulation, calculated using conditional averaging of AD2CP velocity profiles using elevated backscattering intensity associated with subsurface bubble clouds, indicates that LT vortex pairs were characterized by an energetic downwelling zone flanked by broader, weaker upwelling regions with vertical velocity magnitudes similar to previous numerical studies of LT. Horizontally-distributed microstructure estimates of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates were lognormally-distributed near the surface in the wave mixing layer with the majority of values falling between wall layer scaling and wave transport layer scaling. Partitioning dissipation rates between downwelling centers and ambient conditions suggests that LT may play a dominant role in elevating dissipation rates in the OSBL by redistributing wave breaking turbulence.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: A.W. Fisher, afisher@apl.washington.edu
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