On the connection between dissipation enhancement in the ocean surface layer and Langmuir circulations
Teixeira, M. A. C. (2011) On the connection between dissipation enhancement in the ocean surface layer and Langmuir circulations. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 41 (10). pp. 2000-2007. ISSN 0022-3670
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JPO-D-11-062.1
A mechanism for the enhancement of the viscous dissipation rate of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) in the oceanic boundary layer (OBL) is proposed, based on insights gained from rapid-distortion theory (RDT). In this mechanism, which complements mechanisms purely based on wave breaking, preexisting TKE is amplified and subsequently dissipated by the joint action of a mean Eulerian wind-induced shear current and the Stokes drift of surface waves, the same elements thought to be responsible for the generation of Langmuir circulations. Assuming that the TKE dissipation rate epsilon saturates to its equilibrium value over a time of the order one eddy turnover time of the turbulence, a new scaling expression, dependent on the turbulent Langmuir number, is derived for epsilon. For reasonable values of the input parameters, the new expression predicts an increase of the dissipation rate near the surface by orders of magnitude compared with usual surface-layer scaling estimates, consistent with available OBL data. These results establish on firmer grounds a suspected connection between two central OBL phenomena: dissipation enhancement and Langmuir circulations.