Persistent turbulence in the Samoan Passage

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Date
2019-12-09
Authors
Cusack, Jesse M.
Voet, Gunnar
Alford, Matthew H.
Girton, James B.
Carter, Glenn S.
Pratt, Lawrence J.
Pearson-Potts, Kelly A.
Tan, Shuwen
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DOI
10.1175/JPO-D-19-0116.1
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Gravity waves
Turbulence
Abyssal circulation
Mixing
Tides
Abstract
Abyssal waters forming the lower limb of the global overturning circulation flow through the Samoan Passage and are modified by intense mixing. Thorpe-scale-based estimates of dissipation from moored profilers deployed on top of two sills for 17 months reveal that turbulence is continuously generated in the passage. Overturns were observed in a density band in which the Richardson number was often smaller than ¼, consistent with shear instability occurring at the upper interface of the fast-flowing bottom water layer. The magnitude of dissipation was found to be stable on long time scales from weeks to months. A second array of 12 moored profilers deployed for a shorter duration but profiling at higher frequency was able to resolve variability in dissipation on time scales from days to hours. At some mooring locations, near-inertial and tidal modulation of the dissipation rate was observed. However, the modulation was not spatially coherent across the passage. The magnitude and vertical structure of dissipation from observations at one of the major sills is compared with an idealized 2D numerical simulation that includes a barotropic tidal forcing. Depth-integrated dissipation rates agree between model and observations to within a factor of 3. The tide has a negligible effect on the mean dissipation. These observations reinforce the notion that the Samoan Passage is an important mixing hot spot in the global ocean where waters are being transformed continuously.
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© The Author(s), 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Cusack, J. M., Voet, G., Alford, M. H., Girton, J. B., Carter, G. S., Pratt, L. J., Pearson-Potts, K. A., & Tan, S. Persistent turbulence in the Samoan Passage. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 49(12), (2019): 3179-3197, doi: 10.1175/JPO-D-19-0116.1.
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Cusack, J. M., Voet, G., Alford, M. H., Girton, J. B., Carter, G. S., Pratt, L. J., Pearson-Potts, K. A., & Tan, S. (2019). Persistent turbulence in the Samoan Passage. Journal of Physical Oceanography, 49(12), 3179-3197.
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