AbstractObservations of surface waves, currents, and turbulence at the Columbia River mouth are used to investigate the source and vertical structure of turbulence in the surface boundary layer. Turbulent velocity data collected on board freely drifting Surface Wave Instrument Float with Tracking (SWIFT) buoys are corrected for platform motions to estimate turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) and TKE dissipation rates. Both of these quantities are correlated with wave steepness, which has previously been shown to determine wave breaking within the same dataset. Estimates of the turbulent length scale increase linearly with distance from the free surface, and roughness lengths estimated from velocity statistics scale with significant wave height. The vertical decay of turbulence is consistent with a balance between vertical diffusion and dissipation. Below a critical depth, a power-law scaling commonly applied in the literature works well to fit the data. Above this depth, an exponential scaling fits the data well. These results, which are in a surface-following reference frame, are reconciled with results from the literature in a fixed reference frame. A mapping between free-surface and mean-surface reference coordinates suggests 30% of the TKE is dissipated above the mean sea surface.
Journal of Physical Oceanography – American Meteorological Society
Published: Feb 20, 2018
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