Mixing and Formation of Layers by Internal Wave Forcing

Abstract : The energy pathways from propagating internal waves to the scales of irreversible mixing in the ocean are not fully described. In the ocean interior, the triadic resonant instability is an intrinsic destabilization process that may enhance the energy cascade away from topographies. The present study focuses on the integrated impact of mixing processes induced by a propagative normal mode-1 over long-term experiments in an idealized setup. The internal wave dynamics and the evolution of the density profile are followed using the light attenuation technique. Diagnostics of the turbulent diffusivity KT and background potential energy BPE are provided. Mixing effects result in a partially mixed layer colocated with the region of maximum shear induced by the forcing normal mode. The maximum measured turbulent diffusivity is 250 times larger than the molecular value, showing that diapycnal mixing is largely enhanced by small-scale turbulent processes. Intermittency and reversible energy transfers are discussed to bridge the gap between the present diagnostic and the larger values measured in Dossmann et al. (2016a). The mixing efficiency η is assessed by relating the BPE growth to the linearized KE input. One finds a value of math formula, larger than the mixing efficiency in the case of breaking interfacial wave. After several hours of forcing, the development of staircases in the density profile is observed. This mechanism has been previously observed in experiments with weak homogeneous turbulence and explained by Phillips (1972) argument. The present experiments suggest that internal wave forcing could also induce the formation of density interfaces in the ocean.
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Submitted on : Thursday, March 29, 2018 - 3:30:50 PM
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Yvan Dossmann, Florence Pollet, Philippe Odier, Thierry Dauxois. Mixing and Formation of Layers by Internal Wave Forcing. Journal of Geophysical Research. Oceans, Wiley-Blackwell, In press, 122 (12), pp.9906 - 9917. ⟨10.1002/2017JC013309⟩. ⟨hal-01678878⟩

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