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Yulin Pan, Brian K. Arbic, Arin D. Nelson, Dimitris Menemenlis, W. R. Peltier, Wentao Xu, and Ye Li

Abstract

We consider the power-law spectra of internal gravity waves in a rotating and stratified ocean. Field measurements have shown considerable variability of spectral slopes compared to the high-wavenumber, high-frequency portion of the Garrett–Munk (GM) spectrum. Theoretical explanations have been developed through wave turbulence theory (WTT), where different power-law solutions of the kinetic equation can be found depending on the mechanisms underlying the nonlinear interactions. Mathematically, these are reflected by the convergence properties of the so-called collision integral (CL) at low- and high-frequency limits. In this work, we study the mechanisms in the formation of the power-law spectra of internal gravity waves, utilizing numerical data from the high-resolution modeling of internal waves (HRMIW) in a region northwest of Hawaii. The model captures the power-law spectra in broad ranges of space and time scales, with scalings ω −2.05±0.2 in frequency and m −2.58±0.4 in vertical wavenumber. The latter clearly deviates from the GM76 spectrum but is closer to a family of induced-diffusion-dominated solutions predicted by WTT. Our analysis of nonlinear interactions is performed directly on these model outputs, which is fundamentally different from previous work assuming a GM76 spectrum. By applying a bicoherence analysis and evaluations of modal energy transfer, we show that the CL is dominated by nonlocal interactions between modes in the power-law range and low-frequency inertial motions. We further identify induced diffusion and the near-resonances at its spectral vicinity as dominating the formation of power-law spectrum.

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