Turbulence Asymmetries in Bottom Boundary Layer Velocity Pulses Associated with Onshore-Propagating Nonlinear Internal Waves


The inner shelf is a region inshore of that part of the shelf that roughly obeys Ekman dynamics and offshore of the surf zone. Importantly, this is where surface and bottom boundary layers are in close proximity, overlap, and interact. The internal tide carries a substantial amount of energy into the inner shelf region were it eventually dissipates and contributes to mixing. A part of this energy transformation is due to a complex interaction with the bottom, where distinctions between nonlinear internal waves of depression and elevation are blurred, indeed, where polarity reversals of incoming waves take place. From an intensive set of measurements over the inner shelf off central California, we identify salient differences between onshore pulses from waves with properties of elevation waves and offshore pulses from shallowing depression waves. While the velocity structures and amplitudes of on/offshore pulses 1 m above the seafloor are not detectably different, onshore pulses are both more energetically turbulent and carry more sediments than offshore pulses. Their turbulence is also oppositely skewed: onshore pulses slightly to the leading edges, offshore pulses to the trailing edges of the pulses. We consider in turn three independent mechanisms that may contribute to the observed asymmetry: propagation in adverse pressure gradients and the resultant inflection point instability, residence time of a fluid parcel in the pulse, and turbulence suppression by stratification. The first mechanism may largely explain higher turbulence in the trailing edge of offshore pulses. The extended residence time may be responsible for the high and more uniform turbulence distribution across onshore compared to offshore pulses. Stratification does not play a leading role in turbulence modification inside of the pulses 1 m above the bed.
QR Code: Link to publication