The mixing efficiency of interfacial waves breaking at a ridge. Part I: Overall mixing efficiency
The overall mixing efficiency of periodic, interfacial waves breaking at a Gaussian ridge is investigated through laboratory experiments. Cumulative measurements are used to investigate the fraction of the wave energy lost in the breaking event that contributes to irreversible mixing of the background density gradient. Using the tank as a control volume, the distribution of energy into reflected waves, transmitted waves, and dissipation and irreversible mixing from the breaking event is determined. The overall fraction of wave energy lost in the breaking event that is converted irreversibly to mixing is found to be 3–8%, which is low compared with typical values of around 20% for steady, parallel, stratified shear instabilities. Spatial variability in the mixing event may contribute to the relatively low overall efficiency of the event.