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Antarctic Intermediate Water and Subantarctic Mode Water Formation in the Southeast Pacific: The Role of Turbulent Mixing

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  • 1 Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, CSIRO, and CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagships, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • | 2 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
  • | 3 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • | 4 Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
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Abstract

During the 2005 austral winter (late August–early October) and 2006 austral summer (February–mid-March) two intensive hydrographic surveys of the southeast Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean were completed. In this study the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate ϵ, diapycnal diffusivity κ, and buoyancy flux Jb are estimated from the CTD/O2 and XCTD profiles for each survey. Enhanced κ of O(10−3 to 10−4 m2 s−1) is found near the Subantarctic Front (SAF) during both surveys. During the winter survey, enhanced κ was also observed north of the “subduction front,” the northern boundary of the winter deep mixed layer north of the SAF. In contrast, the summer survey found enhanced κ across the entire region north of the SAF below the shallow seasonal mixed layer. The enhanced κ below the mixed layer decays rapidly with depth. A number of ocean processes are considered that may provide the energy flux necessary to support the observed diffusivity. The observed buoyancy flux (4.0 × 10−8 m2 s−3) surrounding the SAF during the summer survey is comparable to the mean buoyancy flux (0.57 × 10−8 m2 s−3) associated with the change in the interior stratification between austral summer and autumn, determined from Argo profiles. The authors suggest that reduced ocean stratification during austral summer and autumn, by interior mixing, preconditions the water column for the rapid development of deep mixed layers and efficient Antarctic Intermediate Water and Subantarctic Mode Water formation during austral winter and early spring.

Corresponding author address: Bernadette Sloyan, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO 1538, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia. Email: bernadette.sloyan@csiro.au

Abstract

During the 2005 austral winter (late August–early October) and 2006 austral summer (February–mid-March) two intensive hydrographic surveys of the southeast Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean were completed. In this study the turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate ϵ, diapycnal diffusivity κ, and buoyancy flux Jb are estimated from the CTD/O2 and XCTD profiles for each survey. Enhanced κ of O(10−3 to 10−4 m2 s−1) is found near the Subantarctic Front (SAF) during both surveys. During the winter survey, enhanced κ was also observed north of the “subduction front,” the northern boundary of the winter deep mixed layer north of the SAF. In contrast, the summer survey found enhanced κ across the entire region north of the SAF below the shallow seasonal mixed layer. The enhanced κ below the mixed layer decays rapidly with depth. A number of ocean processes are considered that may provide the energy flux necessary to support the observed diffusivity. The observed buoyancy flux (4.0 × 10−8 m2 s−3) surrounding the SAF during the summer survey is comparable to the mean buoyancy flux (0.57 × 10−8 m2 s−3) associated with the change in the interior stratification between austral summer and autumn, determined from Argo profiles. The authors suggest that reduced ocean stratification during austral summer and autumn, by interior mixing, preconditions the water column for the rapid development of deep mixed layers and efficient Antarctic Intermediate Water and Subantarctic Mode Water formation during austral winter and early spring.

Corresponding author address: Bernadette Sloyan, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO 1538, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia. Email: bernadette.sloyan@csiro.au

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