Absorption of Internal Waves by the Benthic Boundary Layer

Eric D'Asaro Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543

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Abstract

The interaction of near-inertial velocities with the benthic boundary layer above a flat bottom is investigated using a diagnostic model and a 3-month time series of velocity from a fixed array of current meters. The observed near-inertial motions are assumed to be due to internal waves and diurnal tides. If the vertical wavelength of the internal waves is much larger than the boundary-layer thickness, the turbulent stresses acting on the near-inertial motions and the work done by the stresses on these motions can be computed. The boundary layer is estimated to absorb –0.003 to 0.024 erg cm−2 s−1 from the near-inertial motions, with one-third coming from the K1 diurnal tide and the rest from the internal-wave field. This is far less than estimated by Leaman (1976) and suggests that the benthic boundary layer on a flat bottom plays a minor role in dissipating internal-wave energy. This is also much less than the total energy dissipation in the boundary layer, suggesting that the boundary layer is primarily driven by low-frequency motions, not internal waves. A simple slab model with a linearized quadratic drag law qualitatively explains the observed near-inertial velocity structure and energy flux.

Abstract

The interaction of near-inertial velocities with the benthic boundary layer above a flat bottom is investigated using a diagnostic model and a 3-month time series of velocity from a fixed array of current meters. The observed near-inertial motions are assumed to be due to internal waves and diurnal tides. If the vertical wavelength of the internal waves is much larger than the boundary-layer thickness, the turbulent stresses acting on the near-inertial motions and the work done by the stresses on these motions can be computed. The boundary layer is estimated to absorb –0.003 to 0.024 erg cm−2 s−1 from the near-inertial motions, with one-third coming from the K1 diurnal tide and the rest from the internal-wave field. This is far less than estimated by Leaman (1976) and suggests that the benthic boundary layer on a flat bottom plays a minor role in dissipating internal-wave energy. This is also much less than the total energy dissipation in the boundary layer, suggesting that the boundary layer is primarily driven by low-frequency motions, not internal waves. A simple slab model with a linearized quadratic drag law qualitatively explains the observed near-inertial velocity structure and energy flux.

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