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Langmuir turbulence and surface heating in the ocean surface boundary layer

Pearson, B. C., Grant, A. L. M., Polton, J. A. and Belcher, S. E. (2015) Langmuir turbulence and surface heating in the ocean surface boundary layer. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 45 (12). pp. 2897-2911. ISSN 1520-0485

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JPO-D-15-0018.1


This study uses large-eddy simulation to investigate the structure of the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) in the presence of Langmuir turbulence and stabilizing surface heat fluxes. The OSBL consists of a weakly stratified layer, despite a surface heat flux, above a stratified thermocline. The weakly stratified (mixed) layer is maintained by a combination of a turbulent heat flux produced by the wave-driven Stokes drift and downgradient turbulent diffusion. The scaling of turbulence statistics, such as dissipation and vertical velocity variance, is only affected by the surface heat flux through changes in the mixed layer depth. Diagnostic models are proposed for the equilibrium boundary layer and mixed layer depths in the presence of surface heating. The models are a function of the initial mixed layer depth before heating is imposed and the Langmuir stability length. In the presence of radiative heating, the models are extended to account for the depth profile of the heating.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:58100
Publisher:American Meteorological Society
Publisher Statement:© Copyright 2015 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or


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