Interaction of Langmuir turbulence and inertial currents in the ocean surface boundary layer under tropical cyclones

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Based on a large-eddy simulation approach, this study investigates the response of the ocean surface boundary layer (OSBL) and Langmuir turbulence (LT) to extreme wind and complex wave forcing under tropical cyclones (TCs). The Stokes drift vector that drives LT is determined from spectral wave simulations. During maximum TC winds, LT substantially enhances the entrainment of cool water, causing rapid OSBL deepening. This coincides with relatively strong wave forcing, weak inertial currents, and shallow OSBL depth HB measured by smaller ratios of HB/dswhere ds denotes a Stokes drift decay length scale. LT directly affects a near-surface layer whose depth HLT is estimated from enhanced anisotropy ratios of velocity variances. During rapid OSBL deepening, HLT is proportional to HB and LT efficiently transports momentum in coherent structures, locally enhancing shear instabilities in a deeper shear-driven layer, which is controlled by LT. After the TC passes, inertial currents are stronger and HB is greater while HLT is shallower and proportional to ds. During this time, the LT-affected surface layer is too shallow to directly influence the deeper shear-driven layer, so that both layers are weakly coupled. At the same time, LT reduces surface currents that play a key role in the surface energy input at a later stage. These two factors contribute to relatively small TKE levels and entrainment rates after TC passage. Therefore, our study illustrates that inertial currents need to be taken into account for a complete understanding of LT and its effects on OSBL dynamics in TC conditions.

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Journal of Physical Oceanography