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Qunshu Tang, Zhiyou Jing, Jianmin Lin, and Jie Sun

Abstract

The Mariana Ridge is one of the prominent mixing hotspots of the open ocean. The high-resolution underway marine seismic reflection technique provides an improved understanding of the spatiotemporal continuous map of ocean turbulent mixing. Using this novel technique, this study quantifies the diapycnal diffusivity of the subthermocline (300–1200-m depth) turbulence around the Mariana Ridge. The autotracked wave fields on seismic images allow us to derive the dissipation rate ε and diapycnal diffusivity K ρ based on the Batchelor model, which relates the horizontal slope spectra with +1/3 slope to the inertial convective turbulence regime. Diffusivity is locally intensified around the seamounts exceeding 10−3 m2 s−1 and gradually decreases to 10−5–10−4 m2 s−1 in ~60-km range, a distance that may be associated with the internal tide beam emanating paths. The overall pattern suggests a large portion of the energy dissipates locally and a significant portion dissipates in the far field. Empirical diffusivity models K ρ(x) and K ρ(z), varying with the distance from seamounts and the height above seafloor, respectively, are constructed for potential use in ocean model parameterization. Geographic distributions of both the vertically averaged dissipation rate and diffusivity show tight relationships with the topography. Additionally, a strong agreement of the dissipation results between seismic observation and numerical simulation is found for the first time. Such an agreement confirms the suitability of the seismic method in turbulence quantification and suggests the energy cascade from large-scale tides to small-scale turbulence via possible mechanisms of local direct tidal dissipation, near-local wave–wave interactions, and far-field radiating and breaking.

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