Turbulence and mixing by internal waves in the Celtic Sea determined from ocean glider microstructure measurements

M. R. Palmer, Gordon R., Jr. Stephenson, M. E. Inall, C. Balfour, A. Düsterhus, J. A. M. Green

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We present a new series of data from a 9-day deployment of an ocean microstructure glider (OMG) in the Celtic Sea during the summer of 2012. The OMG has been specially adapted to measure shear microstructure and coincident density structure from which we derive the dissipation rate of turbulent kinetic energy (ε) and diapycnal diffusion rates (K). The methods employed to provide trustworthy turbulent parameters are described and data from 766 profiles of ε, temperature, salinity and density structure are presented. Surface and bottom boundary layers are intuitively controlled by wind and tidal forcing. Interior dynamics is dominated by a highly variable internal wave-field with peak vertical displacements in excess of 50. m, equivalent to over a third of the water depth. Following a relatively quiescent period internal wave energy, represented by the available potential energy (APE), increases dramatically close to the spring tide flow. Rather than follow the assumed spring-neap cycle however, APE is divided into two distinct peak periods lasting only one or two days. Pycnocline ε also increases close to the spring tide period and similar to APE, is distinguishable as two distinct energetic periods, however the timing of these periods is not consistent with APE. Pycnocline mixing associated with the observed ε is shown to be responsible for the majority of the observed reduction in bottom boundary layer density suggesting that diapycnal exchange is a key mechanism in controlling or limiting exchange between the continental shelf and the deep ocean. Results confirm pycnocline turbulence to be highly variable and difficult to predict however a log-normal distribution does suggest that natural variability could be reproduced if the mean state can be accurately simulated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
Early online date28 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Autonomous systems
  • Diapycnal mixing
  • Internal waves
  • Ocean glider
  • Turbulence


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