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Downstream propagation and remote dissipation of internal waves in the Southern Ocean


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Zheng, K and Nikurashin, M ORCID: 0000-0002-5714-8343 2019 , 'Downstream propagation and remote dissipation of internal waves in the Southern Ocean' , Journal of Physical Oceanography, vol. 49 , pp. 1873-1887 , doi: 10.1175/JPO-D-18-0134.1.

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Recent microstructure observations in the Southern Ocean report enhanced internal gravity waves and turbulence in the frontal regions of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current extending a kilometer above rough bottom topography. Idealized numerical simulations and linear theory show that geostrophic flows impinging on rough small-scale topography are very effective generators of internal waves and estimate vigorous wave radiation, breaking, and turbulence within a kilometer above bottom. However, both idealized simulations and linear theory assume periodic and spatially uniform topography and tend to overestimate the observed levels of turbulent energy dissipation locally at the generation sites. In this study, we explore the downstream evolution and remote dissipation of internal waves generated by geostrophic flows using a series of numerical, realistic topography simulations and parameters typical of Drake Passage. The results show that significant levels of internal wave kinetic energy and energy dissipation are present downstream of the rough topography, internal wave generation site. About 30%–40% of the energy dissipation occurs locally over the rough topography region, where internal waves are generated. The rest of the energy dissipation takes place remotely and decays downstream of the generation site with an e-folding length scale of up to 20–30 km. The model we use is two-dimensional with enhanced viscosity coefficients, and hence it can result in the underestimation of the remote wave dissipation and its decay length scale. The implications of our results for turbulent energy dissipation observations and mixing parameterizations are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Zheng, K and Nikurashin, M
Keywords: internal waves, mixing, remote dissipation, Southern Ocean, lee waves
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Physical Oceanography
Publisher: Amer Meteorological Soc
ISSN: 0022-3670
DOI / ID Number: 10.1175/JPO-D-18-0134.1
Copyright Information:

© Copyright 2019 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a website or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. All AMS journals and monograph publications are registered with the Copyright Clearance Center ( Questions about permission to use materials for which AMS holds the copyright can also be directed to Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy statement, available on the AMS website (

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