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Baroclinic Frontal Instabilities and Turbulent Mixing in the Surface Boundary Layer. Part I: Unforced Simulations Public Deposited

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  • Interaction between mixed layer baroclinic eddies and small-scale turbulence is studied using a nonhydrostatic large-eddy simulation (LES) model. Free, unforced flow evolution is considered, for a standard initialization consisting of an 80-m-deep mixed layer with a superposed warm filament and two frontal interfaces in geostrophic balance, on a model domain roughly 5 km × 10 km × 120 m, with an isotropic 3-m computational grid. Results from these unforced experiments suggest that shear generated in narrow frontal zones can support weak three-dimensional turbulence that is directly linked to the larger-scale baroclinic waves. Two separate but closely related issues are addressed: 1) the possible development of enhanced turbulent mixing associated with the baroclinic wave activity and 2) the existence of a downscale transfer of energy from the baroclinic wave scale to the turbulent dissipation scale. The simulations show enhanced turbulence associated with the baroclinic waves and enhanced turbulent heat flux across the isotherms of the imposed frontal boundary, relative to background levels. This turbulence develops on isolated small-scale frontal features that form as the result of frontogenetic processes operating on the baroclinic wave scale and not as the result of a continuous, inertial forward cascade through the intermediate scales. Analysis of the spectrally decomposed kinetic energy budget indicates that large-scale baroclinic eddy energy is directly transferred to small-scale turbulence, with weaker forcing at intermediate scales. For fronts with significant baroclinic wave activity, cross-frontal eddy fluxes computed from correlations of fluctuations from means along the large-scale frontal axis generally agreed with simple theoretical estimates.
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  • Skyllingstad, Eric D., R. M. Samelson, 2012: Baroclinic Frontal Instabilities and Turbulent Mixing in the Surface Boundary Layer. Part I: Unforced Simulations. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 42, 1701–1716. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-10-05016.1
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  • This research was funded by the Office of Naval Research Grant N00014-09-1-0268. Supercomputer resources were provided through the Department of Defense High Performance Computer Modernization Program.
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  • description.provenance : Made available in DSpace on 2012-11-28T21:45:37Z (GMT). No. of bitstreams: 1 SkyllingstadEricCEOASBaroclinicFrontalInstabilities.pdf: 2900754 bytes, checksum: a06f3ffaac6c992c0234038170024e7a (MD5) Previous issue date: 2012-10
  • Journal of Physical Oceanography
  • description.provenance : Submitted by Deanne Bruner (deanne.bruner@oregonstate.edu) on 2012-11-28T21:45:37Z No. of bitstreams: 1 SkyllingstadEricCEOASBaroclinicFrontalInstabilities.pdf: 2900754 bytes, checksum: a06f3ffaac6c992c0234038170024e7a (MD5)
  • Vol. 42 no. 10

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