St. Laurent Louis C.

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St. Laurent
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Louis C.
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  • Article
    Scaling turbulent dissipation in the transition layer
    (American Meteorological Society, 2013-11) Sun, Oliver M. T. ; Jayne, Steven R. ; Polzin, Kurt L. ; Rahter, Bryan A. ; St. Laurent, Louis C.
    Data from three midlatitude, month-long surveys are examined for evidence of enhanced vertical mixing associated with the transition layer (TL), here defined as the strongly stratified layer that exists between the well mixed layer and the thermocline below. In each survey, microstructure estimates of turbulent dissipation were collected concurrently with fine-structure stratification and shear. Survey-wide averages are formed in a “TL coordinate” zTL, which is referenced around the depth of maximum stratification for each profile. Averaged profiles show characteristic TL structures such as peaks in stratification N2 and shear variance S2, which fall off steeply above zTL = 0 and more gradually below. Turbulent dissipation rates ɛ are 5–10 times larger than those found in the upper thermocline (TC). The gradient Richardson number Ri = N2/S2 becomes unstable (Ri < 0.25) within ~10 m of the TL upper boundary, suggesting that shear instability is active in the TL for zTL > 0. Ri is stable for zTL ≤ 0. Turbulent dissipation is found to scale exponentially with depth for zTL ≤ 0, but the decay scales are different for the TL and upper TC: ɛ scales well with either N2 or S2. Owing to the strong correlation between S2 and N2, existing TC scalings of the form ɛ ~ |S|p|N|q overpredict variations in ɛ. The scale dependence of shear variance is not found to significantly affect the scalings of ɛ versus N2 and S2 for zTL ≤ 0. However, the onset of unstable Ri at the top of the TL is sensitively dependent to the resolution of the shears.
  • Article
    Biases in Thorpe-scale estimates of turbulence dissipation. Part I : Assessments from large-scale overturns in oceanographic data
    (American Meteorological Society, 2015-10) Mater, Benjamin D. ; Venayagamoorthy, Subhas K. ; St. Laurent, Louis C. ; Moum, James N.
    Oceanic density overturns are commonly used to parameterize the dissipation rate of turbulent kinetic energy. This method assumes a linear scaling between the Thorpe length scale LT and the Ozmidov length scale LO. Historic evidence supporting LT ~ LO has been shown for relatively weak shear-driven turbulence of the thermocline; however, little support for the method exists in regions of turbulence driven by the convective collapse of topographically influenced overturns that are large by open-ocean standards. This study presents a direct comparison of LT and LO, using vertical profiles of temperature and microstructure shear collected in the Luzon Strait—a site characterized by topographically influenced overturns up to O(100) m in scale. The comparison is also done for open-ocean sites in the Brazil basin and North Atlantic where overturns are generally smaller and due to different processes. A key result is that LT/LO increases with overturn size in a fashion similar to that observed in numerical studies of Kelvin–Helmholtz (K–H) instabilities for all sites but is most clear in data from the Luzon Strait. Resultant bias in parameterized dissipation is mitigated by ensemble averaging; however, a positive bias appears when instantaneous observations are depth and time integrated. For a series of profiles taken during a spring tidal period in the Luzon Strait, the integrated value is nearly an order of magnitude larger than that based on the microstructure observations. Physical arguments supporting LT ~ LO are revisited, and conceptual regimes explaining the relationship between LT/LO and a nondimensional overturn size are proposed. In a companion paper, Scotti obtains similar conclusions from energetics arguments and simulations.
  • Article
    Enhanced diapycnal diffusivity in intrusive regions of the Drake Passage
    (American Meteorological Society, 2016-04-05) Merrifield, Sophia T. ; St. Laurent, Louis C. ; Owens, W. Brechner ; Thurnherr, Andreas M. ; Toole, John M.
    Direct measurements of oceanic turbulent parameters were taken upstream of and across Drake Passage, in the region of the Subantarctic and Polar Fronts. Values of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate ε estimated by microstructure are up to two orders of magnitude lower than previously published estimates in the upper 1000 m. Turbulence levels in Drake Passage are systematically higher than values upstream, regardless of season. The dissipation of thermal variance χ is enhanced at middepth throughout the surveys, with the highest values found in northern Drake Passage, where water mass variability is the most pronounced. Using the density ratio, evidence for double-diffusive instability is presented. Subject to double-diffusive physics, the estimates of diffusivity using the Osborn–Cox method are larger than ensemble statistics based on ε and the buoyancy frequency.