Istituto di Scienze Marine     
Carniel S., Sclavo M., Kantha L., Clayson C. Langmuir cells and mixing in the upper ocean. In: Nuovo Cimento Della Societa Italiana Di Fisica C-Geophysics and Space Physics, vol. 28 (1) pp. 33 - 54. SocietÓ Italiana Di Fisica, 2005.
The presence of surface gravity waves at the ocean surface has two important effects on turbulence in the oceanic mixed layer (ML): the wave breaking and the Langmuir cells (LC). Both these effects act as additional sources of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) in the oceanic ML, and hence are important to mixing in the upper ocean. The breaking of high wave-number components of the wind wave spectrum provides an intense but sporadic source of turbulence in the upper surface; turbulence thus injected diffuses downward, while decaying rapidly, modifying oceanic near-surface properties which in turn could affect the air-sea transfer of heat and dissolved gases. LC provide another source of additional turbulence in the water column; they are counter-rotating cells inside the ML, with their axes roughly aligned in the direction of the wind (Langmuir I., Science, 87 (1938) 119). These structures are usually made evident by the presence of debris and foam in the convergence area of the cells, and are generated by the interaction of the wave-field-induced Stokes drift with the wind-induced shear stress. LC have long been thought to have a substantial influence on mixing in the upper ocean, but the difficulty in their parameterization have made ML modelers consistently ignore them in the past. However, recent Large Eddy Simulations (LES) studies suggest that it is possible to include their effect on mixing by simply adding additional production terms in the turbulence equations, thus enabling even 1D models to incorporate LC-driven turbulence. Since LC also modify the Coriolis terms in the mean momentum equations by the addition of a term involving the Stokes drift, their effect on the velocity structure in the ML is also quite significant and could have a major impact on the drift of objects and spilled oil in the upper ocean. In this paper we examine the effect of surface gravity waves on mixing in the upper ocean, focusing on Langmuir circulations, which is by far the dominant part of the surface wave contribution to mixing.
DOI: 10.1393/ncc/i2005-10022-8
Subject Mixed-layer model

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