Turbulent mixing in the upper ocean of northwestern Weddell Sea, Antarctica


Title: Turbulent mixing in the upper ocean of northwestern Weddell Sea, Antarctica

Journal: Acta Oceanologica Sinica, 35(3): 1-9

Authors: GUO G., J. -X. Shi*, and Y. -T. Jiao

Abstract:Turbulent mixing in the upper ocean (30–200 m) of the northwestern Weddell Sea is investigated based on profiles of temperature, salinity and microstructure data obtained during February 2014. Vertical thermohaline structures are distinct due to geographic features and sea ice distribution, resulting in that turbulent dissipation rates (ε) and turbulent diffusivity (K) are vertically and spatially non-uniform. On the shelf north of Antarctic Peninsula and Philip Ridge, with a relatively homogeneous vertical structure of temperature and salinity through the entire water column in the upper 200 m, both ε and K show significantly enhanced values in the order of O(10–7)-O(10–6) W/kg and O(10–3)–O(10–2) m2/s respectively, about two or three orders of magnitude higher than those in the open ocean. Mixing intensities tend to be mild due to strong stratification in the Powell Basin and South Orkney Plateau, where ε decreases with depth from O(10–8) to O(10–9) W/kg, while K changes vertically in an inverse direction relative to ε from O(10–6) to O(10–5) m2/s. In the marginal ice zone, K is vertically stable with the order of 10–4 m2/s although both intense dissipation and strong stratification occur at depth of 50–100 m below a cold freshened mixed layer. Though previous studies indentify wind work and tides as the primary energy sources for turbulent mixing in coastal regions, our results indicate weak relationship between K and wind stress or tidal kinetic energy. Instead, intensified mixing occurs with large bottom roughness, demonstrating that only when internal waves generated by wind and tide impinge on steep topography can the energy dissipate to support mixing. In addition, geostrophic current flowing out of the Weddell Sea through the gap west of Philip Passage is another energy source contributing to the local intense mixing.