Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Queen's University
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Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy
Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Turbulence in the Deep Ocean

Rob Scott
Le Laboratoire de Physique des Océans, Brest

Friday, June 7, 2013
1:30 PM @ Stirling A


While the turbulent closure problem remains one of the great outstanding problems in classical physics, much is known about the phenomenology of turbulence in various settings. The World Ocean, including all the major basins of the deep global oceans, provides an excellent laboratory with which to study turbulence in several forms. On the largest scales we have quasi-two-dimensional turbulence that contains the most energetic currents. In the simplest case, analytical arguments predict the phenomenology of a counter-intuitive, inverse cascade of energy (small scales drive larger scales). Numerical model simulations and observational data analysis suggests the prediction of the inverse cascade by these simple analytical arguments does indeed apply to the real ocean. This presents a paradox to physical oceanographers as to how to efficiently exchange energy with the microscale turbulence where viscosity can dissipate the mechanical energy. Recent work suggests the generation of internal gravity waves in the lee of deep-sea hills and seamounts likely accounts for most of the energy dissipation.