Near-inertial wave critical layers over sloping bathymetry

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  • 1 Department of Earth System Science, Stanford University
  • 2 Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University
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Abstract

This study describes a specific type of critical layer for near-inertial waves (NIWs) that forms when isopycnals run parallel to sloping bathymetry. Upon entering this slantwise critical layer, the group velocity of the waves decreases to zero and the NIWs become trapped and amplified, which can enhance mixing. A realistic simulation of anticyclonic eddies on the Texas-Louisiana shelf reveals that such critical layers can form where the eddies impinge onto the sloping bottom. Velocity shear bands in the simulation indicate that windforced NIWs are radiated downward from the surface in the eddies, bend upward near the bottom, and enter critical layers over the continental shelf, resulting in inertially-modulated enhanced mixing. Idealized simulations designed to capture this flow reproduce the wave propagation and enhanced mixing. The link between the enhanced mixing and wave trapping in the slantwise critical layer is made using ray-tracing and an analysis of the waves’ energetics in the idealized simulations. An ensemble of simulations is performed spanning the relevant parameter space that demonstrates that the strength of the mixing is correlated with the degree to which NIWs are trapped in the critical layers. While the application here is for a shallow coastal setting, the mechanisms could be active in the open ocean as well where isopycnals align with bathymetry.

Denotes content that is immediately available upon publication as open access.

Corresponding author address: Lixin Qu, Department of Earth System Science, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA. USA. E-mail: lixinqu@stanford.edu

Abstract

This study describes a specific type of critical layer for near-inertial waves (NIWs) that forms when isopycnals run parallel to sloping bathymetry. Upon entering this slantwise critical layer, the group velocity of the waves decreases to zero and the NIWs become trapped and amplified, which can enhance mixing. A realistic simulation of anticyclonic eddies on the Texas-Louisiana shelf reveals that such critical layers can form where the eddies impinge onto the sloping bottom. Velocity shear bands in the simulation indicate that windforced NIWs are radiated downward from the surface in the eddies, bend upward near the bottom, and enter critical layers over the continental shelf, resulting in inertially-modulated enhanced mixing. Idealized simulations designed to capture this flow reproduce the wave propagation and enhanced mixing. The link between the enhanced mixing and wave trapping in the slantwise critical layer is made using ray-tracing and an analysis of the waves’ energetics in the idealized simulations. An ensemble of simulations is performed spanning the relevant parameter space that demonstrates that the strength of the mixing is correlated with the degree to which NIWs are trapped in the critical layers. While the application here is for a shallow coastal setting, the mechanisms could be active in the open ocean as well where isopycnals align with bathymetry.

Denotes content that is immediately available upon publication as open access.

Corresponding author address: Lixin Qu, Department of Earth System Science, Stanford University, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA. USA. E-mail: lixinqu@stanford.edu
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