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Shear Instability and Turbulent Mixing in the Stratified Shear Flow Behind a Topographic Ridge at High Reynolds NumberObservations on the lee of a topographic ridge show that the turbulence kinetic energy (TKE) dissipation rate due to shear instabilities is three orders of magnitude higher than the typical value in the open ocean. Laboratory-scale studies at low Reynolds number suggest that high turbulent dissipation occurs primarily within the core region of shear instabilities. However, field-scale studies indicate that high turbulence is mainly populated along the braids of shear instabilities. In this study, a high-resolution, resolving the Ozmidov-scale, non-hydrostatic model with Large Eddy Simulation (LES) turbulent closure is applied to investigate dominant mechanisms that control the spatial and temporal scales of shear instabilities and resulting mixing in stratified shear flow at high Reynolds number. The simulated density variance dissipation rate is elevated in the cusp-like bands of shear instabilities with a specific period, consistent with the acoustic backscatter taken by shipboard echo sounder. The vertical length scale of each cusp-like band is nearly half of the vertical length scale of the internal lee wave. However, it is consistent with instabilities originating from a shear layer based on linear stability theory. The model results indicate that the length scale and/or the period of shear instabilities are the key parameters tomore »
Direct measurements reveal instabilities and turbulence within large amplitude internal solitary waves beneath the oceanAbstract Internal solitary waves are ubiquitous in coastal regions and marginal seas of the world’s oceans. As the waves shoal shoreward, they lose the energy obtained from ocean tides through globally significant turbulent mixing and dissipation and consequently pump nutrient-rich water to nourish coastal ecosystem. Here we present fine-scale, direct measurements of shoaling internal solitary waves in the South China Sea, which allow for an examination of the physical processes triggering the intensive turbulent mixing in their interior. These are convective breaking in the wave core and the collapse of Kelvin–Helmholtz billows in the wave rear and lower periphery of the core, often occurring simultaneously. The former takes place when the particle velocity exceeds the wave’s propagating velocity. The latter is caused by the instability induced by the strong velocity shear overcoming the stratification. The instabilities generate turbulence levels four orders of magnitude larger than that in the open ocean.