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Free Content Dissipation and diffusion by internal wave breaking

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Recent direct observations of the rate of kinetic energy dissipation, , tend to vary systematically with buoyancy frequency, N. This note presents arguments leading to an expected relationship between these two parameters. We first suggest that the classical separation of velocity field into “turbulent” and “mean” (including internal waves) is inappropriate for a stratified system such as the ocean, in which nonlinear forces and buoyant restoring forces act over a wide range of space-time scales. Reconsidering the steady-state kinetic energy equation without this separation, we obtain  ∝ N1.0 or  ∝ N1.5, where the ambiguity in exponent is associated with uncertainty with regard to the appropriate form for the vertical velocity variance of the internal wave field. With similar assumptions in the steady-state equation for available potential energy (APE) it is shown that the rate of dissipation of APE, , also varies as  ∝ N1.0 or  ∝ N1.5, where ambiguity in exponent again derives from internal wave vertical velocity variance. If, in addition, the flux Richardson number is independent of N, the vertical eddy diffusivity for mass Kp associated with internal wave mixing varies as KpN–1.0 or KpN–0.5.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 1984

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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