Turbulent mixing in a sloping benthic boundary layer energized by internal waves

Gregory Ivey, K.B. Winters, I.P.D. De Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A laboratory study was carried out to directly measure the turbulence properties in a benthic boundary layer (BBL) above a uniformly sloping bottom where the BBL is energized by internal waves. The ambient fluid was continuously stratified and the steadily forced incoming wave field consisted of a confined beam, restricting the turbulent activity to a finite region along the bottom slope. Measurements of dissipation showed some variation over the wave phase, but cycle-averaged values indicated that the dissipation was nearly constant with height within the BBL. Dissipation levels were up to three orders of magnitude larger than background laminar values and the thickness of the BBL could be defined in terms of the observed dissipation variation with height. Assuming that most of the incoming wave energy was dissipated within the BBL, predicted levels of dissipation were in good agreement with the observations.Measurements were also made of density and two orthogonal components of the velocity fluctuations at discrete heights above the bottom. Cospectral estimates of density and velocity fluctuations showed that the major contributions to both the vertical density flux and the momentum flux resulted from frequencies near the wave forcing frequency, rather than super-buoyancy frequencies, suggesting a strong nonlinear interaction between the incident and reflected waves close to the bottom. Within the turbulent BBL, time-averaged density fluxes were significant and negative near the wave frequencies but negligible at frequencies greater than the buoyancy frequency N. While dissipation rates were high compared to background laminar values, they were low compared to the value of epsilon(tr) approximate to 15 nu N-2, the transition value often used to assess the capacity of a stratified flow to produce mixing. Existing models relating mixing to dissipation rate rely on the existence of a positive-definite density flux at frequencies greater than N as a signature of fluid mixing and therefore cannot apply to these experiments. We therefore introduce a simple model, based on the concept of diascalar fluxes, to interpret the mixing in the stratified fluid in the BBL and suggest that this may have wider application than to the particular configuration studied here.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-76
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Volume418
Issue numberN/A
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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