Hot Spots of Ocean Mixing Generated By Undersea Topography

Source: Phys.org/ Robert Perkins/California Institute of Technology - December 7, 2017 in Science/Tech

Hot Spots of Ocean Mixing Generated By Undersea Topography
Photo: Cassie Matias/Unsplash

Using underwater robots in the waters surrounding Antarctica, scientists at Caltech have shown that the intersection of strong currents with the slope of landmasses rising from the ocean floor makes a significant contribution to the mixing of different waters in the Southern Ocean. A study on the research was published online in the journal Nature Geoscience on October 30.

To understand the important role of the seafloor in mixing  , imagine a liquid in a blender. Mixing of the liquid does not occur evenly throughout the blender; rather, the liquid blends more rapidly closer to the spinning blades at the bottom than it does at the top. Nevertheless, the strength and speed of the blades determines the degree to which material is mixed throughout the container.

Similarly, in the ocean, global water properties may depend on very localized mixing processes. Researchers are interested in understanding where and how this mixing occurs, as it governs the large-scale circulation of the ocean and its ability to sequester carbon dioxide.

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