AbstractRecent numerical modelling studies have suggested significant spontaneous internal wave generation near the ocean surface, and energy transfers to and from these waves in the ocean interior. Spontaneous generation is the emission of waves by unbalanced, large Rossby number flows in the absence of direct forcing. Here the authors’ previous work is extended to investigate where and how these waves exchange energy with the non-wave (mean) flow. A novel double-filtering technique is adopted to firstly separate the wave and non-wave fields, and secondly, the individual upward and downward propagating wave fields, and thereby identify the pathways of energy transfer. These energy transfers are dominated by the interaction of the waves with the vertical shear in the mean flow. Spontaneously generated waves are found to be oriented such that the downward propagating wave is amplified by the mean shear. The internal waves propagate through the entire model depth while dissipating energy, and reflect back upwards. The now upward propagating waves have the opposite sign interaction with the mean shear and decay, losing most of their energy to the non-wave flow in the upper 500m. Overall, in the simulations described here, approximately 30% of the wave energy is dissipated and 70% is returned to the mean flow. The apparent preferential orientation of spontaneous generation suggests a potentially unique role for these waves in the ocean energy budget in uniformly drawing net energy from mean flow in the upper ocean interior and transporting it to depth.
Journal of Physical Oceanography – American Meteorological Society
Published: Dec 27, 2017
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