Marine Science Faculty Publications

An Analytical Theory of the Buoyancy–Kolmogorov Subrange Transition in Turbulent Flows with Stable Stratification

Document Type


Publication Date



stable stratification, turbulence, quasi-normal spectral closure theories

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


The buoyancy subrange of stably stratified turbulence is defined as an intermediate range of scales larger than those in the inertial subrange. This subrange encompasses the crossover from internal gravity waves (IGWs) to small-scale turbulence. The energy exchange between the waves and small-scale turbulence is communicated across this subrange. At the same time, it features progressive anisotropization of flow characteristics on increasing spatial scales. Despite many observational and computational studies of the buoyancy subrange, its theoretical understanding has been lagging. This article presents an investigation of the buoyancy subrange using the quasi-normal scale elimination (QNSE) theory of turbulence. This spectral theory uses a recursive procedure of small-scale modes elimination based upon a quasi-normal mapping of the velocity and temperature fields using the Langevin equations. In the limit of weak stable stratification, the theory becomes completely analytical and yields simple expressions for horizontal and vertical eddy viscosities and eddy diffusivities. In addition, the theory provides expressions for various one-dimensional spectra that quantify turbulence anisotropization. The theory reveals how the dispersion relation for IGWs is modified by turbulence, thus alleviating many unique waves' features. Predictions of the QNSE theory for the buoyancy subrange are shown to agree well with various data.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, v. 371, issue 1982, art. 20120212