Vertical kinetic energy and turbulent dissipation in the ocean
Thurnherr, Andreas M.
Toole, John M.
St. Laurent, Louis C.
Richards, Kelvin J.
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Oceanic internal waves are closely linked to turbulence. Here a relationship between vertical wave number (kz) spectra of fine-scale vertical kinetic energy (VKE) and turbulent dissipation ε is presented using more than 250 joint profiles from five diverse dynamic regimes, spanning latitudes between the equator and 60°. In the majority of the spectra VKE varies as inline image. Scaling VKE with inline image collapses the off-equatorial spectra to within inline image but underestimates the equatorial spectrum. The simple empirical relationship between VKE and ε fits the data better than a common shear-and-strain fine-scale parameterization, which significantly underestimates ε in the two data sets that are least consistent with the Garrett-Munk (GM) model. The new relationship between fine-scale VKE and dissipation rate can be interpreted as an alternative, single-parameter scaling for turbulent dissipation in terms of fine-scale internal wave vertical velocity that requires no reference to the GM model spectrum.
© The Author(s), 2015. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Geophysical Research Letters 42 (2015): 7639–7647, doi:10.1002/2015GL065043.
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