Turbulence and diapycnal mixing over the East Pacific Rise crest near 10°N

Thurnherr, Andreas M.; St. Laurent, Louis C.

Turbulent mixing plays an important role in the return path of the global overturning circulation of the ocean. Previous measurements indicate that much of the mixing takes place near topography, in particular near seamounts and mid-ocean ridges. Here we report on the first microstructure data set collected over the crest and flanks of a fast-spreading ridge. The data indicate that in spite of weak tidally modulated background turbulence levels (ϵ≈10^-10 W kg^-1) diapycnal diffusivity is elevated above 10^-4 m^2 s^-1 below crest depth of the ridge throughout the entire region because of the weak density stratification. Near the peaks and in the narrow deep passages of a chain of seamounts, where large horizontal velocities have been observed, turbulence levels are elevated by up to an order of magnitude above background. We conclude that topographic organization plays an important role in determining spatial patterns of turbulence in this region and that both tidal and subinertial energy contribute to the mixing.



Also Published In

Geophysical Research Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
November 7, 2011