Measuring the TKE budget and turbulent momentum flux beneath breaking waves using an autonomous underwater vehicle

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National Science Foundation
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Alexander Fisher
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Few studies have measured the turbulent kinetic energy and dissipation beneath breaking waves, because direct measurements of turbulent Reynolds stress and the full TKE budget in the oceanic surface boundary layer are rare owing to constraints associated with typical observational platforms. Consequently, the inclusion of surface wave effects in turbulence closure schemes relies heavily on numerical modeling results due to the limited availability of direct observations.

We propose to make detailed, comprehensive measurements of the turbulent Reynolds stress and terms in the turbulent kinetic energy budget of a wave-affected surface layer using an autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with microstructure probes and fast velocimeters. Our results will inform future modeling efforts through analysis of momentum and energy transfer within the framework of second moment closure schemes and ultimately improve our ability to predict the fate and transport of nutrients, sediments, plankton, larvae, and pollutants in the coastal ocean.