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Deep-sea turbulence evolution observed by multiple closely spaced instruments



Turbulent mixing in the deep ocean is not well understood. The breaking of internal waves on sloped seafloor topography can generate deep-sea turbulence. However, it is difficult to measure turbulence comprehensively due to its multi-scale processes, in addition to flow–flow and flow–topography interactions. Dense, high-resolution spatiotemporal coverage of observations may help shed light on turbulence evolution. Here, we present turbulence observations from four broadband ocean bottom seismometers (OBSs) and a 200-m vertical thermistor string (T-string) in a footprint of 1 × 1 km to characterize turbulence induced by internal waves at a depth of 3000 m on a Pacific continental slope. Correlating the OBS-calculated time derivative of kinetic energy and the T-string-calculated turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rate, we propose that the OBS-detected signals were induced by near-seafloor turbulence. Strong disturbances were detected during a typhoon period, suggesting large-scale inertial waves breaking with upslope transport speeds of 0.2–0.5 m s−1. Disturbances were mostly excited on the downslope side of the array where the internal waves from the Pacific Ocean broke initially and the turbulence oscillated between < 1 km small-scale ridges. Such small-scale topography caused varying turbulence-induced signals due to localized waves breaking. Arrayed OBSs can provide complementary observations to characterize deep-sea turbulence.

Full Article:
Yang, CF., Chi, WC. & van Haren, H., (2021), Deep-sea turbulence evolution observed by multiple closely spaced instruments, Scientific Reports 11, 3919