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Turbulent Mixing and Biophysical Interactions

Mixing occurs over a broad range of scales and plays a major role in transferring energy, materials, and organisms throughout the global ocean. Mixing influences primary productivity, plankton community structure, biogeochemical processes (e.g., carbon sequestration) in the surface and deep ocean, and the transport of material to the deep ocean. Quantifying mixing is essential to improving models of ocean circulation and ecosystem dynamics.

Ocean Mixing and Rough Topography

Turbulent mixing is of central importance to a variety of ocean processes from biological transport to long-term changes in the global circulation system.  Mixing is elevated over rough topography owing to many processes including internal wave scattering, flow hydraulics, and scrubbing of mesoscale eddies.  To resolve and better understand these phenomena, OOI must perform the minimum set of measurements described here.

Science Questions

  • How does topography-driven mixing maintain the observed abyssal stratification?
  • What processes are responsible for enhanced near-boundary mixing?
  • What are the spatial and temporal variability, and steady state dynamics of these processes?
  • How are these processes engendered and/or modulated by the general circulation, mesoscale eddies, mesoscale waves, inertial wave energy levels, barotropic tides, higher frequency internal wave energy levels, and ambient stratification?