Abyssal circulation driven by near-boundary mixing: water mass transformations and interior stratification

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Drake, Henri F.
Ferrari, Raffaele
Callies, Joern
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Abyssal circulation
Bottom currents
Boundary currents
Bottom currents/bottom water
Boundary layer
The emerging view of the abyssal circulation is that it is associated with bottom-enhanced mixing, which results in downwelling in the stratified ocean interior and upwelling in a bottom boundary layer along the insulating and sloping seafloor. In the limit of slowly varying vertical stratification and topography, however, boundary layer theory predicts that these upslope and downslope flows largely compensate, such that net water mass transformations along the slope are vanishingly small. Using a planetary geostrophic circulation model that resolves both the boundary layer dynamics and the large-scale overturning in an idealized basin with bottom-enhanced mixing along a midocean ridge, we show that vertical variations in stratification become sufficiently large at equilibrium to reduce the degree of compensation along the midocean ridge flanks. The resulting large net transformations are similar to estimates for the abyssal ocean and span the vertical extent of the ridge. These results suggest that boundary flows generated by mixing play a crucial role in setting the global ocean stratification and overturning circulation, requiring a revision of abyssal ocean theories.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2020. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Physical Oceanography 50(8),(2020): 2203-2226, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-19-0313.1.
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Drake, H. F., Ferrari, R., & Callies, J. (2020). Abyssal circulation driven by near-boundary mixing: water mass transformations and interior stratification. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 50(8), 2203-2226.
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