5 years ago

Turbulence and Mixing in a Shallow Shelf Sea From Underwater Gliders

Larissa K. P. Schultze, Lucas M. Merckelbach, Jeffrey R. Carpenter
The seasonal thermocline in shallow shelf seas acts as a natural barrier for boundary-generated turbulence, damping scalar transport to the upper regions of the water column, and controlling primary production to a certain extent. To better understand turbulence and mixing conditions within the thermocline, two unique 12- and 17-day datasets with continuous measurements of the dissipation rate of turbulent kinetic energy (ε) collected by autonomous underwater gliders under stratified to well-mixed conditions are presented. A highly intermittent ε signal was observed in the stratified thermocline region, which was mainly characterized by quiescent flow (turbulent activity index below 7). The rate of diapycnal mixing remained relatively constant for the majority of the time with peaks of higher fluxes that were responsible for much of the increase in bottom mixed layer temperature. The water column stayed predominantly strongly stratified, with a bulk Richardson number across the thermocline well above 2. A positive relationship between the intensity of turbulence, shear and stratification was found. The trend between turbulence levels and the bulk Richardson number was relatively weak, but suggests that ε increases as the bulk Richardson number approaches 1. The results also highlight the interpretation difficulties in both quantifying turbulent thermocline fluxes, as well as the responsible mechanisms.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/2017JC012872

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