Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Journal of Physcial Oceanography
The ocean surface boundary layer is a gateway of energy transfer into the ocean. Wind-driven shear and meteorologically forced convection inject turbulent kinetic energy into the surface boundary layer, mixing the upper ocean and transforming its density structure. In the absence of direct observations or the capability to resolve sub-grid scale 3D turbulence in operational ocean models, the oceanography community relies on surface boundary layer similarity scalings (BLS) of shear and convective turbulence to represent this mixing. Despite their importance, near-surface mixing processes (and ubiquitous BLS representations of these processes) have been under-sampled in high energy forcing regimes such as the Southern Ocean. With the maturing of autonomous sampling platforms, there is now an opportunity to collect high-resolution spatial and temporal measurements in the full range of forcing conditions. Here, we characterize near-surface turbulence under strong wind forcing using the first long-duration glider microstructure survey of the Southern Ocean. We leverage these data to show that the measured turbulence is significantly higher than standard shear-convective BLS in the shallower parts of the surface boundary layer and lower than standard shear-convective BLS in the deeper parts of the surface boundary layer; the latter of which is not easily explained by present wave-effect literature. Consistent with the CBLAST (Coupled Boundary Layers and Air Sea Transfer) low winds experiment, this bias has the largest magnitude and spread in shallowest 10% of the actively mixing layer under low-wind and breaking wave conditions, when relatively low levels of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) in surface regim.
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Ferris, Laur; Clayson, Carole Anne; Gong, Donglai; and et al, Shear turbulence in the high-wind Southern Ocean using direct measurements (2022). Journal of Physcial Oceanography.