Does Ocean Turbulence Peak at the Equator?: Revisited

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  • 1 College of Oceanography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
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Abstract

In spite of the effects of several form of temporal variability that tend to mask geographical patterns in turbulence intensity, our evidence indicates that the turbulence is enhanced above the equatorial undercurrent in comparison to latitudes north and south of it. This evidence consists of three meridional transects of micro-structure observations across the equator (at 140°W in 1984 and 1987. and at 110°W in 1987) along with an equatorial station at 140°W and a longitudinal transect along the equator from 140°W to 110°W. All three meridional transects show a peak in averaged estimates of the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates, ε, at the equator, although in 1984 the peak was not significant at the 95% level. The major sources a temporal variability were the diurnal buoyancy flux variation and the wind stress variations, which had a typical period of a few days. After the diurnal variability is removed by averaging, it can be shown that, for similar wind stress, ε is larger over the undercurrent than away from it. Examination of the 16-m, 1-hour averaged ε, in terms of the vertical shear of horizontal velocity and the stratification (determined over similar space and time scales), indicated a tendency of this mean ε to vary with the Richardson number, Ri, when Ri<1. However, closer examination showed that the dependence of ε on Ri varied with depth. Therefore, a simple parameterization for mixing rates on Ri is not valid for all depth.

Abstract

In spite of the effects of several form of temporal variability that tend to mask geographical patterns in turbulence intensity, our evidence indicates that the turbulence is enhanced above the equatorial undercurrent in comparison to latitudes north and south of it. This evidence consists of three meridional transects of micro-structure observations across the equator (at 140°W in 1984 and 1987. and at 110°W in 1987) along with an equatorial station at 140°W and a longitudinal transect along the equator from 140°W to 110°W. All three meridional transects show a peak in averaged estimates of the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates, ε, at the equator, although in 1984 the peak was not significant at the 95% level. The major sources a temporal variability were the diurnal buoyancy flux variation and the wind stress variations, which had a typical period of a few days. After the diurnal variability is removed by averaging, it can be shown that, for similar wind stress, ε is larger over the undercurrent than away from it. Examination of the 16-m, 1-hour averaged ε, in terms of the vertical shear of horizontal velocity and the stratification (determined over similar space and time scales), indicated a tendency of this mean ε to vary with the Richardson number, Ri, when Ri<1. However, closer examination showed that the dependence of ε on Ri varied with depth. Therefore, a simple parameterization for mixing rates on Ri is not valid for all depth.

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