Radiation and Dissipation of Internal Waves Generated by Geostrophic Motions Impinging on Small-Scale Topography: Theory

(Nikurashin, Maxim and Ferrari, Raffaele), Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 40, no. 5, pp. pages, 2009.


Abstract Observations and inverse models suggest that small-scale turbulent mixing is enhanced in the Southern Ocean in regions above rough topography. The enhancement extends O(1) km above the topography, suggesting that mixing is supported by the breaking of gravity waves radiated from the ocean bottom. In this study, it is shown that the observed mixing rates can be sustained by internal waves generated by geostrophic motions flowing over bottom topography. Weakly nonlinear theory is used to describe the internal wave generation and the feedback of the waves on the zonally averaged flow. Vigorous inertial oscillations are driven at the ocean bottom by waves generated at steep topography. The wave radiation and dissipation at equilibrium is therefore the result of both geostrophic flow and inertial oscillations differing substantially from the classical lee-wave problem. The theoretical predictions are tested versus two-dimensional high-resolution numerical simulations with parameters representative of Drake Passage. This work suggests that mixing in Drake Passage can be supported by geostrophic motions impinging on rough topography rather than by barotropic tidal motions, as is commonly assumed.

doi = 10.1175/2009JPO4199.1

Download PDF


Copy/paste the below reference into a .bib file to import.