Large-eddy simulation of deep-cycle turbulence in an equatorial undercurrent model

TitleLarge-eddy simulation of deep-cycle turbulence in an equatorial undercurrent model
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPham H.T, Sarkar S., Winters KB
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Date Published2013/11
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0022-3670
Accession NumberWOS:000329778300015
Keywordsand modeling; circulation; currents; diurnal cycle; dynamics; evolution; internal waves; Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities; Large eddy simulations; models; pacific-ocean; Shear

Dynamical processes leading to deep-cycle turbulence in the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) are investigated using a high-resolution large-eddy simulation (LES) model. Components of the model include a background flow similar to the observed EUC, a steady westward wind stress, and a diurnal surface buoyancy flux. An LES of a 3-night period shows the presence of narrowband isopycnal oscillations near the local buoyancy frequency N as well as nightly bursts of deep-cycle turbulence at depths well below the surface mixed layer, the two phenomena that have been widely noted in observations. The deep cycle of turbulence is initiated when the surface heating in the evening relaxes, allowing a region with enhanced shear and a gradient Richardson number Ri(g) less than 0.2 to form below the surface mixed layer. The region with enhanced shear moves downward into the EUC and is accompanied by shear instabilities and bursts of turbulence. The dissipation rate during the turbulence bursts is elevated by up to three orders of magnitude. Each burst is preceded by westward-propagating oscillations having a frequency of 0.004-0.005 Hz and a wavelength of 314-960 m. The Ri(g) that was marginally stable in this region decreases to less than 0.2 prior to the bursts. A downward turbulent flux of momentum increases the shear at depth and reduces Ri(g). Evolution of the deep-cycle turbulence includes Kelvin-Helmholtz-like billows as well as vortices that penetrate downward and are stretched by the EUC shear.

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