Spreading of floating particles by Langmuir circulation.

Research paper by S A SA Thorpe

Indexed on: 22 Aug '09Published on: 22 Aug '09Published in: Marine Pollution Bulletin


Particles floating on the sea surface, in particular buoyant algae, are drawn into bands by the converging flow between neighbouring Langmuir cells. Floating bands subsequently amalgamate as a result of Langmuir turbulence. Simple models are developed to describe the rearrangement and dispersion of the floating particles. If the production of floating particles has ceased, the mean separation of the bands of particles increases with time and eventually becomes unrelated to the mean distance between the lines of convergence resulting from Langmuir circulation. The concentration of particles in the bands, proportional to the width of bands, and the separation of bands with a given concentration of particles, both increase with time. Care is needed in estimating the width of Langmuir cells to distinguish between surface bands of floating material that is continuously being produced and bands made visible by some earlier, but discontinued, generation. An alternative mechanism for the generation of dense bands of floating algae is proposed.