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  1. Abstract Buoyant material, such as floating debris, marine organisms, and spilled oil, is aggregated and trapped within estuaries. Traditionally, the aggregation of buoyant material is assumed to be a consequence of converging Eulerian surface currents, often associated with lateral (cross-estuary) density gradients that drive baroclinic lateral circulations. This study explores an alternative aggregation mechanism due to tidally driven Lagrangian residual circulations without Eulerian convergence zones and without lateral density variation. In a tidally driven estuary, the depth-dependent tidal phase of the lateral velocity varies across the estuary. This study demonstrates that the lateral movement of surface trapped material follows the tidal phase, resulting in a lateral Lagrangian residual circulation known as Stokes drift for small-amplitude motions. For steeper bathymetry, the lateral change in tidal phase is greater and the corresponding lateral Lagrangian residual flow faster. At local depth extrema, e.g., in the thalweg, depth does not vary laterally, so that the associated tidal phase is laterally constant. Therefore, the Stokes drift is weak near depth extrema resulting in Lagrangian convergence zones where buoyant material concentrates. These ideas are evaluated employing an idealized analytic model in which the along-estuary tidal flow is driven by an imposed barotropic pressure gradient, whereas cross-estuary flow is induced by the Coriolis force. Model results highlight that convergence zones due to Lagrangian residual velocities are efficient in forming persistent aggregation regions of buoyant material along the estuary. Significance Statement Our study focuses on the aggregation of buoyant material (e.g., debris, oil, organisms) in estuaries. Traditionally, the aggregation of buoyant material is assumed to be a consequence of converging Eulerian surface currents, often associated with lateral (cross-estuary) density gradients that drive baroclinic lateral circulations. Our study explores an alternative aggregation mechanism due to tidally driven Lagrangian residual circulations without Eulerian convergence zones and without lateral density variation. Our results highlight that convergence zones due to Lagrangian residual velocities are efficient in forming persistent aggregation regions of buoyant material along the estuary. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    The turbulent ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) shoals during daytime solar surface heating, developing a diurnal warm layer (DWL). The DWL significantly influences OSBL dynamics by trapping momentum and heat in a shallow near‐surface layer. Therefore, DWL depth is critical for understanding OSBL transport and ocean‐atmosphere coupling. A great challenge for determining DWL depth is considering wave‐driven Langmuir turbulence (LT), which increases vertical transport. This study investigates observations with moderate wind speeds (4–7 m/s at 10 m height) and swell waves for which breaking wave effects are less pronounced. By employing turbulence‐resolving large eddy simulation experiments that cover observed wind, wave, and heating conditions based on the wave‐averaged Craik‐Lebovich equation, we develop a DWL depth scaling unifying previous approaches. This scaling closely agrees with observed DWL depths from a year‐long mooring deployment in the subtropical North Atlantic, demonstrating the critical role of LT in determining DWL depth and OSBL dynamics.

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  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Dispersion processes in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) determine marine material distributions such as those of plankton and pollutants. Sheared velocities drive shear dispersion, which is traditionally assumed to be due to mean horizontal currents that decrease from the surface. However, OSBL turbulence supports along-wind jets; located in near-surface convergence and downwelling regions, such turbulent jets contain strong local shear. Through wind-driven idealized and large eddy simulation (LES) models of the OSBL, this study examines the role of turbulent along-wind jets in dispersing material. In the idealized model, turbulent jets are generated by prescribed cellular flow with surface convergence and associated downwelling regions. Numeric and analytic model solutions reveal that horizontal jets substantially contribute to along-wind dispersion for sufficiently strong cellular flows and exceed contributions due to vertical mean shear for buoyant surface-trapped material. However, surface convergence regions also accumulate surface-trapped material, reducing shear dispersion by jets. Turbulence resolving LES results of a coastal depth-limited ocean agree qualitatively with the idealized model and reveal long-lived coherent jet structures that are necessary for effective jet dispersion. These coastal results indicate substantial jet contributions to along-wind dispersion. However, jet dispersion is likely less effective in the open ocean because jets are shorter lived, less organized, and distorted due to spiraling Ekman currents. 
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  4. Abstract

    Mixing processes in the upper ocean play a key role in transferring heat, momentum, and matter in the ocean. These mixing processes are significantly enhanced by wave‐driven Langmuir turbulence (LT). Based on a paired analysis of observations and simulations, this study investigates wind fetch and direction effects on LT at a coastal site south of the island Martha’s Vineyard (MA, USA). Our results demonstrate that LT is strongly influenced by wind fetch and direction in coastal oceans, both of which contribute to controlling turbulent coastal transport processes. For northerly offshore winds, land limits the wind fetch and wave development, whereas southerly winds are associated with practically infinite fetch. Observed and simulated two‐dimensional wave height spectra reveal persistent southerly swell and substantially more developed wind‐driven waves from the south. For oblique offshore winds, waves develop more strongly in the alongshore direction with less limited fetch, resulting in significant wind and wave misalignments. Observations of coherent near‐surface crosswind velocities indicate that LT is only present for sufficiently developed waves. The fetch‐limited northerly winds inhibit wave developments and the formation of LT. In addition to limited fetch, strong wind–wave misalignments prevent LT development. Although energetic and persistent, swell waves do not substantially influence LT activity during the observation period because these relatively long swell waves are associated with small Stokes drift shear. These observational results agree well with turbulence‐resolving large eddy simulations (LESs) based on the wave‐averaged Navier–Stokes equation, validating the LES approach to coastal LT in the complex wind and wave conditions.

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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Turbulence driven by wind and waves controls the transport of heat, momentum, and matter in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL). For realistic ocean conditions, winds and waves are often neither aligned nor constant, for example, when winds turn rapidly. Based on a Large Eddy Simulation (LES) method, which captures shear-driven turbulence (ST) and Langmuir turbulence (LT) driven by the Craik-Leibovich vortex force, we investigate the OSBL response to abruptly turning winds. We design idealized LES experiments, whose winds are initially constant to equilibrate OSBL turbulence before abruptly turning 90° either cyclonically or anticyclonically. The transient Stokes drift for LT is estimated from a spectral wave model. The OSBL response includes three successive stages that follow the change in direction. During stage 1, turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) decreases due to reduced TKE production. Stage 2 is characterized by TKE increasing with TKE shear production recovering and exceeding TKE dissipation. Transient TKE levels may exceed their stationary values due to inertial resonance and non-equilibrium turbulence. Turbulence relaxes to its equilibrium state at stage 3, but LT still adjusts due to slowly developing waves. During stages 1 and 2, greatly misaligned wind and waves lead to Eulerian TKE production exceeding Stokes TKE production. A Reynolds stress budget analysis and Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes equation models indicate that Stokes production furthermore drives the OSBL response. The Coriolis effects result in asymmetrical OSBL responses to wind turning directions. Our results suggest that transient wind conditions play a key role in understanding realistic OSBL dynamics. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract This study investigates the dynamics of velocity shear and Reynolds stress in the ocean surface boundary layer for idealized misaligned wind and wave fields using a large-eddy simulation (LES) model based on the Craik–Leibovich equations, which captures Langmuir turbulence (LT). To focus on the role of LT, the LES experiments omit the Coriolis force, which obscures a stress–current-relation analysis. Furthermore, a vertically uniform body force is imposed so that the volume-averaged Eulerian flow does not accelerate but is steady. All simulations are first spun-up without wind-wave misalignment to reach a fully developed stationary turbulent state. Then, a crosswind Stokes drift profile is abruptly imposed, which drives crosswind stresses and associated crosswind currents without generating volume-averaged crosswind currents. The flow evolves to a new stationary state, in which the crosswind Reynolds stress vanishes while the crosswind Eulerian shear and Stokes drift shear are still present, yielding a misalignment between Reynolds stress and Lagrangian shear (sum of Eulerian current and Stokes drift). A Reynolds stress budgets analysis reveals a balance between stress production and velocity–pressure gradient terms (VPG) that encloses crosswind Eulerian shear, demonstrating a complex relation between shear and stress. In addition, the misalignment between Reynolds stress and Eulerian shear generates a horizontal turbulent momentum flux (due to correlations of along-wind and crosswind turbulent velocities) that can be important in producing Reynolds stress (due to correlations of horizontal and vertical turbulent velocities). Thus, details of the Reynolds stress production by Eulerian and Stokes drift shear may be critical for driving upper-ocean currents and for accurate turbulence parameterizations in misaligned wind-wave conditions. 
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  7. Abstract

    In shallow coastal oceans, turbulent flows driven by surface winds and waves and constrained by a solid bottom disperse particles. This work examines the mechanisms driving horizontal and vertical dispersion of buoyant and sinking particles for times much greater than turbulent integral time scales. Turbulent fields are modeled using a wind‐stress driven large eddy simulation (LES), incorporating wave‐driven Langmuir turbulence, surface breaking wave turbulent kinetic energy inputs, and a solid bottom boundary. A Lagrangian stochastic model is paired to the LES to incorporate Lagrangian particle tracking. Within a subset of intermediate buoyant rise velocities, particles experience synergistic vertical mixing in which breaking waves (BW) inject particles into Langmuir downwelling velocities sufficient to drive deep mixing. Along‐wind dispersion is controlled by vertical shear in mean along‐wind velocities. Wind and bottom friction‐driven vertical shear enhances dispersion of buoyant and sinking particles, while energetic turbulent mixing, such as from BW, dampens shear dispersion. Strongly rising and sinking particles trapped at the ocean surface and bottom, respectively, experience no vertical shear, resulting in low rates of along‐wind dispersion. Crosswind dispersion is shaped by particle advection in wind‐aligned fields of counter‐rotating Langmuir and Couette roll cells. Langmuir cells enhance crosswind dispersion in neutrally to intermediately buoyant particles through enhanced cell hopping. Surface trapping restricts particles to Langmuir convergence regions, strongly inhibiting crosswind dispersion. In shallow coastal systems, particle dispersion depends heavily on particle buoyancy and wave‐dependent turbulent effects.

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  8. Currents in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) determine the horizontal transport of submerged buoyant material, such as pollutants, plankton, and bubbles. Commonly, the mean horizontal transport, that is, the transport that changes the horizontal position of the material’s center of mass, is assumed to be accomplished by horizontal mean currents. However, surface convergence zones due to OSBL turbulence organize both wind-driven horizontal currents and near-surface concentrated buoyant material. In such surface convergence zones, concentrations of buoyant material are enhanced (e.g., apparent as windrows) and collocate with increased horizontal turbulent currents, here referred to as turbulent jets. In turn, the correlation of turbulent jet flow and material concentrations leads to a net mean horizontal transport due to turbulent motion. To examine this turbulent jet transport, an idealized model is devised for a wind-driven flow that is perturbed by prescribed cellular flow structures with crosswind surface convergence zones. Model solutions of the jet flow and material concentrations reveal that turbulent jet transport is comparable to the transport by horizontal mean currents for sufficiently strong cellular flow and material buoyancy. To test this model, we also perform more realistic turbulence-resolving large-eddy simulations (LESs) of wind and wave-driven OSBL turbulence. LES results are consistent with many features of the idealized model and suggest that the commonly overlooked turbulent jet transport is about 20%–50% of the traditional transport by horizontal mean currents. Thus, turbulent jet transport should be taken into account for accurate transport models of buoyant material in the OSBL.

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  9. Turbulent processes in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) play a key role in weather and climate systems. This study explores a Lagrangian analysis of wave-driven OSBL turbulence, based on a large-eddy simulation (LES) model coupled to a Lagrangian stochastic model (LSM). Langmuir turbulence (LT) is captured by Craik–Leibovich wave forcing that generates LT through the Craik–Leibovich type 2 (CL2) mechanism. Breaking wave (BW) effects are modeled by a surface turbulent kinetic energy flux that is constrained by wind energy input to surface waves. Unresolved LES subgrid-scale (SGS) motions are simulated with the LSM to be energetically consistent with the SGS model of the LES. With LT, Lagrangian autocorrelations of velocities reveal three distinct turbulent time scales: an integral, a dispersive mixing, and a coherent structure time. Coherent structures due to LT result in relatively narrow peaks of Lagrangian frequency velocity spectra. With and without waves, the high-frequency spectral tail is consistent with expectations for the inertial subrange, but BWs substantially increase spectral levels at high frequencies. Consistently, over short times, particle-pair dispersion results agree with the Richardson–Obukhov law, and near-surface dispersion is significantly enhanced because of BWs. Over longer times, our dispersion results are consistent with Taylor dispersion. In this case, turbulent diffusivities are substantially larger with LT in the crosswind direction, but reduced in the along-wind direction because of enhanced turbulent transport by LT that reduces mean Eulerian shear. Our results indicate that the Lagrangian analysis framework is effective and physically intuitive to characterize OSBL turbulence.

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  10. This study utilizes a large-eddy simulation (LES) approach to systematically assess the directional variability of wave-driven Langmuir turbulence (LT) in the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) under tropical cyclones (TCs). The Stokes drift vector, which drives LT through the Craik–Leibovich vortex force, is obtained through spectral wave simulations. LT’s direction is identified by horizontally elongated turbulent structures and objectively determined from horizontal autocorrelations of vertical velocities. In spite of a TC’s complex forcing with great wind and wave misalignments, this study finds that LT is approximately aligned with the wind. This is because the Reynolds stress and the depth-averaged Lagrangian shear (Eulerian plus Stokes drift shear) that are key in determining the LT intensity (determined by normalized depth-averaged vertical velocity variances) and direction are also approximately aligned with the wind relatively close to the surface. A scaling analysis of the momentum budget suggests that the Reynolds stress is approximately constant over a near-surface layer with predominant production of turbulent kinetic energy by Stokes drift shear, which is confirmed from the LES results. In this layer, Stokes drift shear, which dominates the Lagrangian shear, is aligned with the wind because of relatively short, wind-driven waves. On the contrary, Stokes drift exhibits considerable amount of misalignments with the wind. This wind–wave misalignment reduces LT intensity, consistent with a simple turbulent kinetic energy model. Our analysis shows that both the Reynolds stress and LT are aligned with the wind for different reasons: the former is dictated by the momentum budget, while the latter is controlled by wind-forced waves.

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