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Modeling Water-Mass Distributions in the Modern and LGM Ocean: Circulation Change and Isopycnal and Diapycnal Mixing

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  • 1 Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York
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Abstract

Paleoproxy observations suggest that deep-ocean water-mass distributions were different at the Last Glacial Maximum than they are today. However, even modern deep-ocean water-mass distributions are not completely explained by observations of the modern ocean circulation. This paper investigates two processes that influence deep-ocean water-mass distributions: 1) interior downwelling caused by vertical mixing that increases in the downward direction and 2) isopycnal mixing. Passive tracers are used to assess how changes in the circulation and in the isopycnal-mixing coefficient impact deep-ocean water-mass distributions in an idealized two-basin model. We compare two circulations, one in which the upper cell of the overturning reaches to 4000-m depth and one in which it shoals to 2500-m depth. Previous work suggests that in the latter case the upper cell and the abyssal cell of the overturning are separate structures. Nonetheless, high concentrations of North Atlantic Water (NAW) are found in our model’s abyssal cell: these tracers are advected into the abyssal cell by interior downwelling caused by our vertical mixing profile, which increases in the downward direction. Further experiments suggest that the NAW concentration in the deep South Atlantic Ocean and in the deep Pacific Ocean is influenced by the isopycnal-mixing coefficient in the top 2000 m of the Southern Ocean. Both the strength and the vertical profile of isopycnal mixing are important for setting deep-ocean tracer concentrations. A 1D advection–diffusion model elucidates how NAW concentration depends on advective and diffusive processes.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-20-0204.s1.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: C. Spencer Jones, spencerj@ldeo.columbia.edu

Abstract

Paleoproxy observations suggest that deep-ocean water-mass distributions were different at the Last Glacial Maximum than they are today. However, even modern deep-ocean water-mass distributions are not completely explained by observations of the modern ocean circulation. This paper investigates two processes that influence deep-ocean water-mass distributions: 1) interior downwelling caused by vertical mixing that increases in the downward direction and 2) isopycnal mixing. Passive tracers are used to assess how changes in the circulation and in the isopycnal-mixing coefficient impact deep-ocean water-mass distributions in an idealized two-basin model. We compare two circulations, one in which the upper cell of the overturning reaches to 4000-m depth and one in which it shoals to 2500-m depth. Previous work suggests that in the latter case the upper cell and the abyssal cell of the overturning are separate structures. Nonetheless, high concentrations of North Atlantic Water (NAW) are found in our model’s abyssal cell: these tracers are advected into the abyssal cell by interior downwelling caused by our vertical mixing profile, which increases in the downward direction. Further experiments suggest that the NAW concentration in the deep South Atlantic Ocean and in the deep Pacific Ocean is influenced by the isopycnal-mixing coefficient in the top 2000 m of the Southern Ocean. Both the strength and the vertical profile of isopycnal mixing are important for setting deep-ocean tracer concentrations. A 1D advection–diffusion model elucidates how NAW concentration depends on advective and diffusive processes.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-20-0204.s1.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: C. Spencer Jones, spencerj@ldeo.columbia.edu

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