Coastal Microstructure: From Active Overturn to Fossil Turbulence
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The Remote Anthropogenic Sensing Program was a five year effort (2001- 2005) to examine subsurface phenomena related to a sewage outfall off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. This research has implications for basic ocean hydrodynamics, particularly for a greatly improved understanding of the evolution of turbulent patches. It was the first time a microstructure measurement was used to study such a buoyancy-driven turbulence generated by a sea-floor diffuser. In 2004, two stations were selected to represent the near field and ambient conditions. They have nearly identical bathymetrical and hydrographical features and provide an ideal environment for a control experiment. Repeated vertical microstructure measurements were performed at both stations for 20 days. A time series of physical parameters was collected and used for statistical analysis. After comparing the data from both stations, it can be concluded that the turbulent mixing generated by the diffuser contributes to the elevated dissipation rate observed in the pycnocline and bottom boundary layer. To further understand the mixing processes in both regions, data were plotted on a Hydrodynamic Phase Diagram. The overturning stages of the turbulent patches are identified by Hydrodynamic Phase Diagram. This technique provides detailed information on the evolution of the turbulent patches from active overturns to fossilized scalar microstructures in the water column. Results from this study offer new evidence to support the fossil turbulence theory. This study concluded that: 1. Field Data collected near a sea-floor outfall diffuser show that turbulent patches evolve from active (overturning) to fossil (buoyancy-inhibited) stages, consistent with the process of turbulent patch evolution proposed by fossil turbulence theory. 2. The data show that active (overturning) and fossil (buoyancy-inhibited) patches have smaller length scales than the active+fossil (intermediate) stage of patch evolution, consistent with fossil turbulence theory and with laboratory studies. 3. Compared to a far-field reference, elevated dissipation rates near the diffuser were found in the seasonal pycnocline as well as in the bottom boundary layer. 4. More than 90% of the turbulent patches observed in the water column were non-overturning (active+fossil and fossil). Such patches can provide significant mixing in the interior of the ocean, far from surface and bottom boundary layers.
Leung, Pak Tao (2011). Coastal Microstructure: From Active Overturn to Fossil Turbulence. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from