Wind-driven mixing below the oceanic mixed layer
To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/JPO-D-10-05020.1
This study describes the turbulent processes in the upper ocean boundary layer forced by a constant surface stress in the absence of the Coriolis force using large-eddy simulation. The boundary layer that develops has a two-layer structure, a well-mixed layer above a stratified shear layer. The depth of the mixed layer is approximately constant, whereas the depth of the shear layer increases with time. The turbulent momentum flux varies approximately linearly from the surface to the base of the shear layer. There is a maximum in the production of turbulence through shear at the base of the mixed layer. The magnitude of the shear production increases with time. The increase is mainly a result of the increase in the turbulent momentum flux at the base of the mixed layer due to the increase in the depth of the boundary layer. The length scale for the shear turbulence is the boundary layer depth. A simple scaling is proposed for the magnitude of the shear production that depends on the surface forcing and the average mixed layer current. The scaling can be interpreted in terms of the divergence of a mean kinetic energy flux. A simple bulk model of the boundary layer is developed to obtain equations describing the variation of the mixed layer and boundary layer depths with time. The model shows that the rate at which the boundary layer deepens does not depend on the stratification of the thermocline. The bulk model shows that the variation in the mixed layer depth is small as long as the surface buoyancy flux is small.