Mixing in the Transition Layer during Two Storm Events

Dohan, K, Davis RE.  2011.  Mixing in the Transition Layer during Two Storm Events. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 41:42-66.

Date Published:



currents, internal waves, mixed-layer, model, near-inertial oscillations, northeast pacific, propagation, turbulence, upper-ocean response


Upper-ocean dynamics analyzed from mooring-array observations are contrasted between two storms of comparable magnitude. Particular emphasis is put on the role of the transition layer, the strongly stratified layer between the well-mixed upper layer, and the deeper more weakly stratified region. The midlatitude autumn storms occurred within 20 days of each other and were measured at five moorings. In the first storm, the mixed layer follows a classical slab-layer response, with a steady deepening during the course of the storm and little mixing of the thermocline beneath. In the second storm, rather than deepening, the mixed layer shoals while intense near-inertial waves are resonantly excited within the mixed layer. These create a large shear throughout the transition layer, generating turbulence that broadens the transition layer. Details of the space time structure of the frequencies in both short waves and near-inertial waves are presented. Small-scale waves are excited within the transition layer. Their frequencies change with time and there are no clear peaks at harmonics of inertial or tidal frequencies. Wavelet transforms of the inertial oscillations show the evolution as a spreading in frequency, a deepening of the core into the transition layer, and a shift off the inertial frequency. A second near-inertial energy core appears below the transition layer at all moorings coincident with a rapid decay of mixed layer currents. An overall result is that direct wind-generated motions extend to the depth of the transition layer. The transition layer is a location of enhanced wave activity and enhanced shear-driven mixing.