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Detecting changes at the leading edge of an interface between oceanic water layers

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Miguel Morales Maqueda



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Many physical phenomena in the ocean involve interactions between water masses of different temperatures and salinities at boundaries. Of particular interest is the characterisation of finescale structure at the marginal interaction zones of these boundaries, where the structure is either destroyed by mixing or formed by stratification. Using high-resolution seismic reflection imaging, we present observations of temporal changes at the leading edge of an interface between sub-thermocline layers in the Panama Basin. By studying time-lapse images of a seismic reflector between two water boundaries with subtle differences, we provide empirical constraints on how stratified layers evolve. The leading edge of this reflector, which is characterised by a gradual lateral decrease in vertical temperature contrast (|ΔT|), increases in length over ~3 days coupled with an increase in |ΔT|. A critical mixing state, in which turbulent diffusion is gradually replaced by double-diffusion as the dominant mixing process, is thus revealed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tang Q, Tong VCH, Hobbs RW, Morales Maqueda MA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Communications

Year: 2019

Volume: 10

Online publication date: 14/10/2019

Acceptance date: 13/09/2019

Date deposited: 15/10/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2041-1723

Publisher: Nature


DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-12621-8


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