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A comparison of two methods using Thorpe sorting to estimate mixing

TitleA comparison of two methods using Thorpe sorting to estimate mixing
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSmith J.A
Date Published2020/01
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0739-0572
Accession NumberWOS:000504982000001
Keywordsalgorithms; Data processing; Engineering; In situ oceanic observations; Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences; Microscale processes; oceanic; overturns; Profilers; scales; turbulence; variability

Some high-resolution CTD data collected in the spring of 2017 are analyzed using Thorpe sorting and scale analyses, including both the commonly used "Thorpe scale" method and a lesser-used method that is based on directly estimating the "available overturn potential energy" (AOPE): the difference between potential energies of the raw versus sorted density profiles in a mixing "turbulent patch." The speed of the profiler varied, so the spatial (vertical) sampling is uneven. A method is developed and described to apply the Thorpe scaling and the AOPE approaches to such unevenly sampled data. The AOPE approach appears to be less sensitive to the (poorly constrained) estimate of the "background" buoyancy frequency N. Although these approaches are typically used to first estimate the dissipation rate epsilon(K) of turbulent kinetic energy, the real goal is to estimate the diffusivity of density K-rho and hence the net alteration of the density profile by mixing. Two easily measured dimensionless parameters are presented as possible metrics of the"age" or "state" of the mixing patch, which might help to resolve the question of how the total turbulent energy and dissipation are apportioned between kinetic and potential components and hence how much of the measured AOPE ends up changing the background stratification. A speculative example as to how this might work is presented.

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