Eddy-induced modulation of turbulent dissipation over rough topography in the Southern Ocean

Brearley, J. A. and Sheen, K. L. and Naveira Garabato, A. C. and Smeed, D. A. and Waterman, S. N.

abstract: Mesoscale eddies are universal features of the ocean circulation, yet the processes by which their energy is dissipated remain poorly understood. One hypothesis argues that the interaction of strong geostrophic flows with rough bottom topography effects an energy transfer between eddies and internal waves, with the breaking of these waves causing locally elevated dissipation focused near the sea floor. This study uses hydrographic and velocity data from a 1-yr mooring cluster deployment in the Southern Ocean to test this hypothesis. The moorings were located over a small (~10 km) topographic obstacle to the east of Drake Passage in a region of high eddy kinetic energy, and one was equipped with an ADCP at 2800-m depth from which internal wave shear variance and dissipation rates were calculated. Examination of the ADCP time series revealed a predominance of upward-propagating internal wave energy and a significant correlation (r = 0.45) between shear variance levels and subinertial near-bottom current speeds. Periods of strong near-bottom flow coincided with increased convergence of eddy-induced interfacial form stress in the bottom 1500 m. Predictions of internal wave energy radiation were made from theory using measured near-bottom current speeds, and the mean value of wave radiation (5.3 mW m^-2) was sufficient to support the dissipated power calculated from the ADCP. A significant temporal correlation was also observed between radiated and dissipated power. Given the ubiquity of strong eddy flows and rough topography in the Southern Ocean, the transfer from eddy to internal wave energy is likely to be an important term in closing the ocean energy budget.

  author = {Brearley, J.~A. and Sheen, K. L. and Naveira~Garabato, A. C. and Smeed, D. A. and Waterman, S. N.},
  title = {Eddy-induced modulation of turbulent dissipation over rough topography in the Southern Ocean},
  journal = {J. Phys. Ocean.},
  year = {2013},
  pages = {2288--2308},
  volume = {43},
  issue = {11},
  doi = {10.1175/JPO-D-12-0222.1},
  url = {https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/359618/}