Abstract

Penetration of solar radiation in the upper few meters of the ocean creates a near-surface, stratified diurnal warm layer. Wind stress accelerates a diurnal jet in this layer. Turbulence generated at the diurnal thermocline, where the shear of the diurnal jet is concentrated, redistributes heat downward via mixing. New measurements of temperature and turbulence from fast thermistors on a surface-following platform depict the details of this sequence in both time and depth. Temporally, the sequence at a fixed depth follows a counter-clockwise path in log ϵ–logN parameter space. This path also captures the evolution of buoyancy Reynolds number (a proxy for the anisotropy of the turbulence) and Ozmidov scale (a proxy for the outer vertical length scale of turbulence in the absence of the free surface). Vertically, the solar heat flux always leads to heating of fluid parcels in the upper few meters, whereas the turbulent heat flux divergence changes sign across the depth of maximum vertical temperature gradient, cooling fluid parcels above and heating fluid parcels below. In general, our measurements of fluid parcel heating or cooling rates of order 0.1 °Ch−1 are consistent with our estimates of heat flux divergence. In weak winds (<2 ms−1), sea surface temperature (SST) is controlled by the depth-dependent absorption of solar radiation. In stronger winds, turbulent mixing controls SST.

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