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MARI/CCPO Seminar Series

Turbulence in the Coastal Ocean: So Important and Yet So Elusive

Johanna Rosman, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In coastal and estuarine systems, turbulent stress gradients are leading order in momentum budgets and turbulent mixing strongly affects the transport of materials such as dissolved oxygen, nutrients, larvae and sediment. Wave orbital motion, bottom boundary layers, and surface boundary layers can extend throughout the water column, and turbulence is often affected by density stratification. Direct measurements of turbulence are needed to develop and confront models for turbulent mixing in these kinds of systems. In shallow water, turbulence is typically measured using sensors that resolve velocity and scalar fluctuations at high temporal resolution but do not resolve spatial patterns. Surface waves advect turbulent eddies past these sensors and the resulting time series are difficult to interpret. In this talk, we will present results from DNS simulations and theoretical analyses that were used to develop methods for estimating Reynolds stresses, dissipation rates, and turbulent length scales from measurements containing waves. We will also present results from a field experiment designed to directly measure turbulence properties, identify turbulence generation mechanisms, and quantify mixing in the strongly-stratified, wind-driven Neuse River estuary.