Large-Scale Circulation with Locally Enhanced Vertical Mixing Public Deposited

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  • The influence of localized regions of intensified vertical mixing on the stratification and circulation in a large-scale ocean model is investigated with idealized numerical experiments. Numerical solutions are obtained of a closed-basin, single-hemisphere ocean model based on the planetary geostrophic equations. Mesoscale eddy effects are minimized, and vertical mixing at the turbulent microscale is represented by a vertical diffusivity κ[subscript]υ. Solutions with uniform κ[subscript]υ are contrasted with a “localized mixing” solution, in which κ[subscript]υ increases by two orders of magnitude from its interior value (0.2 × 10⁻⁴ m² s⁻¹) in a region 500 km wide adjacent to the vertical eastern boundary. When κ[subscript]υ is uniform, the stratification beneath the ventilated thermocline is characterized by a single vertical scale. In contrast, the localized vertical mixing supports a deep diffusive thermocline with two distinct vertical scales: an internal boundary layer centered at the base of the ventilated thermocline (roughly 1000-m depth) and an abyssal thermocline whose vertical scale is set in the region of large κ[subscript]υ. This stratification is qualitatively similar to observed deep ocean stratification. In contrast to the Stommel–Arons meridional abyssal flow that arises in the model when κ[subscript]υ is uniform and small, the localized mixing solution has primarily zonal flow in the abyssal interior, with meridional motion confined to boundary layers. An advective–diffusive balance is established in the region of enhanced mixing. The near-surface circulation is dominated by westward zonal flow in the southern half of the interior, northward flow along the western boundary, and eastward flow in the northern half of the interior, while the pattern of flow in the abyssal interior is essentially the reverse. The circulation is closed by upwelling in the mixing region and downwelling along the northern boundary. Meridional motion in the mixing region is consistent with the Sverdrup vorticity balance, with northward flow at depth and southward flow near the surface. The source water for the deep circulation is confined to a narrow range of the coldest temperature classes in the basin, while the middepth subtropical thermocline is filled with warmer deep water that enters the gyre as cold deep water and then is modified in the eastern mixing region.
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  • Samelson, R. M., 1998: Large-Scale Circulation with Locally Enhanced Vertical Mixing. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 28, 712–726.
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  • 28
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  • 4
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  • This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant OCE94-15512), the Office of Naval Research (Grant N00014-93-1-1369), and WHOI.
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