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Characterization of the submesoscale energy cascade in the Alboran Sea thermocline from spectral analysis of high-resolution MCS data

AuthorsSallarès, Valentí ; Mojica, J.F. ; Biescas, Berta ; Klaeschen, Dirk; Gràcia, Eulàlia
Issue DateJun-2016
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
CitationGeophysical Research Letters 43(12): 6461-6468 (2016)
AbstractPart of the kinetic energy that maintains ocean circulation cascades down to small scales until it is dissipated through mixing. While most steps of this downward energy cascade are well understood, an observational gap exists at horizontal scales of 103–101 m that prevents characterizing a key step in the chain: the transition from anisotropic internal wave motions to isotropic turbulence. Here we show that this observational gap can be covered using high-resolution multichannel seismic (HR-MCS) data. Spectral analysis of acoustic reflectors imaged in the Alboran Sea thermocline shows that this transition is likely caused by shear instabilities. In particular, we show that the averaged horizontal wave number spectra of the reflectors vertical displacements display three subranges that reproduce theoretical spectral slopes of internal waves (λx > 100 m), Kelvin-Helmholtz-type shear instabilities (100 m > λx > 33 m), and turbulence (λx < 33 m), indicating that the whole chain of events is occurring continuously and simultaneously in the surveyed area
Description8 pages, 4 figures, supporting Information https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2016GL069782
Publisher version (URL)https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2016GL069782
Identifiersdoi: 10.1002/2016GL069782
issn: 0094-8276
e-issn: 1944-8007
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