Observation of a large lee wave in the Drake Passage

Cusak, Jesse M.; Naveira Garabato, Alberto C.; Smeed, David A.; Girton, James B.. 2017 Observation of a large lee wave in the Drake Passage. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 47 (4). 793-810.

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Lee waves are thought to play a prominent role in Southern Ocean dynamics, facilitating a transfer of energy from the jets of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to microscale, turbulent motions important in water mass transformations. Two EM-APEX profiling floats deployed in the Drake Passage during the Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment (DIMES) independently measured a 120 ± 20-m vertical amplitude lee wave over the Shackleton Fracture Zone. A model for steady EM-APEX motion is developed to calculate absolute vertical water velocity, augmenting the horizontal velocity measurements made by the floats. The wave exhibits fluctuations in all three velocity components of over 15 cm s−1 and an intrinsic frequency close to the local buoyancy frequency. The wave is observed to transport energy and horizontal momentum vertically at respective peak rates of 1.3 ± 0.2 W m−2 and 8 ± 1 N m−2. The rate of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation is estimated using both Thorpe scales and a method that isolates high-frequency vertical kinetic energy and is found to be enhanced within the wave to values of order 10−7 W kg−1. The observed vertical flux of energy is significantly larger than expected from idealized numerical simulations and also larger than observed depth-integrated dissipation rates. These results provide the first unambiguous observation of a lee wave in the Southern Ocean with simultaneous measurements of its energetics and dynamics.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0022-3670
Date made live: 06 Feb 2017 10:35 +0 (UTC)

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