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Thermobaric control of gravitational potential energy generation by diapycnal mixing in the deep ocean

Oliver, K. I. C. and Tailleux, R. (2013) Thermobaric control of gravitational potential energy generation by diapycnal mixing in the deep ocean. Geophysical Research Letters, 40 (2). pp. 327-331. ISSN 0094-8276

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/2012GL054235

Abstract/Summary

Sources and sinks of gravitational potential energy (GPE) play a rate-limiting role in the large scale ocean circulation. A key source is turbulent diapycnal mixing, whereby irre- versible mixing across isoneutral surfaces is enhanced by turbulent straining of these surfaces. This has motivated international observational efforts to map diapycnal mixing in the global ocean. However, in order to accurately relate the GPE supplied to the large scale circulation by diapycnal mixing to the mixing energy source, it is first necessary to determine the ratio, ξ , of the GPE generation rate to the available potential energy dissipation rate associated with turbulent mixing. Here, the link between GPE and hydro- static pressure is used to derive the GPE budget for a com- pressible ocean with a nonlinear equation of state. The role of diapycnal mixing is isolated and from this a global cli- matological distribution of ξ is calculated. It is shown that, for a given source of mixing energy, typically three times as much GPE is generated if the mixing takes place in bottom waters rather than in the pycnocline. This is due to GPE destruction by cabbelling in the pycnocline, as opposed to thermobaric enhancement of GPE generation by diapycnal mixing in the deep ocean.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Walker Institute
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:34400
Uncontrolled Keywords:diapycnal mixing; equation of state; thermodynamics; meridional overturning circulation
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
Publisher Statement:Copyright belong to the publisher

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