Wave breaking turbulence at the offshore front of the Columbia River Plume
Thomson, James M.
Horner-Devine, Alex R.
Geyer, W. Rockwell
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Observations at the Columbia River plume show that wave breaking is an important source of turbulence at the offshore front, which may contribute to plume mixing. The lateral gradient of current associated with the plume front is sufficient to block (and break) shorter waves. The intense whitecapping that then occurs at the front is a significant source of turbulence, which diffuses downward from the surface according to a scaling determined by the wave height and the gradient of wave energy flux. This process is distinct from the shear-driven mixing that occurs at the interface of river water and ocean water. Observations with and without short waves are examined, especially in two cases in which the background conditions (i.e., tidal flows and river discharge) are otherwise identical.
© The Author(s), 2014. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Geophysical Research Letters 41 (2014): 8987–8993, doi:10.1002/2014GL062274.
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