Surface ocean turbulence driven by horizontal density gradients


  • Colin Schultz


Surface ocean turbulence is of fundamental importance for ocean ecosystems because of its role in driving surface mixing, bringing nutrients from depth, and assisting in transferring atmospheric gases into the water. Researchers know that small-scale turbulence is a pervasive feature of the surface ocean. They also know that once established, these small eddies interact with dynamics such as gravity waves or Langmuir circulation. Identifying the underlying mechanism generating the turbulence eddies, however, has proven more difficult. Deriving a set of differential equations, Benilov found that surface turbulence grows out of an interaction between vortices driven by ocean water density inhomogeneities and surface waves.