Abyssal Circulation Driven By Near-Boundary Mixing: Water Mass Transformations and Interior Stratification

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1175/JPO-D-19-0313.1. This is version 4 of this Preprint.


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Henri Francois Drake , Raffaele Ferrari, Jörn Callies


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 up- and down-slope flows largely compensate, such that net watermass 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 mid-ocean ridge, we show that vertical variations in stratification become sufficiently large at equilibrium to reduce the degree of compensation along the mid-ocean 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.




Earth Sciences, Oceanography, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Bottom boundary layer, abyssal ocean, meridional overturning circulation, ocean circulation, ocean mixing


Published: 2020-01-13 08:51

Last Updated: 2022-01-11 02:09

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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