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Dynamics of the Diurnal Warm Layer: Surface Jet, High-Frequency Internal Waves, and Mixing

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  • 1 Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
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Abstract

Evolution of a thermally stratified diurnal warm layer (DWL), including the formation and decay of a daytime surface-layer jet, high-frequency internal waves, and mixing were examined from observations collected during July 2016, near 93.75°W, 28°N, on the outer Louisiana–Texas continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, when the ocean surface was experiencing a weak sea breeze (<5 m s−1) and strong solar insolation. While winds and surface waves were weak, the DWL was formed with stratification strengthening and stability frequency reaching 14 cycles per hour at 2-m depth, while inhibiting turbulence below the DWL. A surface-intensified jet developed during afternoon hours. The jet, oriented to the right of the wind stress with a speed of about 10 cm s−1 at 2 m, veered and decreased with depth. The magnitude of the diurnal jet was correlated with the heat content anomaly in the DWL. Internal waves with periods ranging from 5 min to 4 h were observed in the upper 4 m. Temperature fluctuations were ~ ±0.2°C, and the corresponding vertical displacements varied from 0.5 to 1 m. These fluctuations appeared during afternoon hours when the Richardson number dropped below the critical value of 0.25 followed by energetic mixing. The daytime jet and the high-frequency fluctuations disappeared a few hours after sunset. Internal waves were likely excited by Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities and by surface wave and internal wave interactions. Mixing resulting from the dissipation of daytime internal waves is an important factor in regulating sea surface temperature in the DWL.

Corresponding author: H. W. Wijesekera, hemantha.wijesekera@nrlssc.navy.mil

Abstract

Evolution of a thermally stratified diurnal warm layer (DWL), including the formation and decay of a daytime surface-layer jet, high-frequency internal waves, and mixing were examined from observations collected during July 2016, near 93.75°W, 28°N, on the outer Louisiana–Texas continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, when the ocean surface was experiencing a weak sea breeze (<5 m s−1) and strong solar insolation. While winds and surface waves were weak, the DWL was formed with stratification strengthening and stability frequency reaching 14 cycles per hour at 2-m depth, while inhibiting turbulence below the DWL. A surface-intensified jet developed during afternoon hours. The jet, oriented to the right of the wind stress with a speed of about 10 cm s−1 at 2 m, veered and decreased with depth. The magnitude of the diurnal jet was correlated with the heat content anomaly in the DWL. Internal waves with periods ranging from 5 min to 4 h were observed in the upper 4 m. Temperature fluctuations were ~ ±0.2°C, and the corresponding vertical displacements varied from 0.5 to 1 m. These fluctuations appeared during afternoon hours when the Richardson number dropped below the critical value of 0.25 followed by energetic mixing. The daytime jet and the high-frequency fluctuations disappeared a few hours after sunset. Internal waves were likely excited by Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities and by surface wave and internal wave interactions. Mixing resulting from the dissipation of daytime internal waves is an important factor in regulating sea surface temperature in the DWL.

Corresponding author: H. W. Wijesekera, hemantha.wijesekera@nrlssc.navy.mil
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